Staying safe at the sales – A GP’s Blog – 29 July 2020

When it comes to protecting themselves, their families and staff from Covid-19, farmers and crofters should look to how they keep their livestock healthy according to Dr John Locke, a GP at Gatehouse of Fleet and chairman of NFU Scotland’s Stewartry Branch in Dumfries and Galloway.  

As we approach sale season, Dr Locke writes:

Why do we test for BVD, TB or Johnes or bother to isolate a sick calf?  Or disinfect lambing pens?  Because we know that these diseases spread without symptoms or that we can take effective measures to avoid infecting other animals.

Covid-19 is no different.  It is clear that there are ‘super-spreaders' who shed lots of virus before becoming ill or are never actually unwell. The other issue is a ‘super-spreading event’, usually an indoor venue with lots of people, talking or singing and poor ventilation.  So, you cannot tell who has the virus, but you can take measures to reduce transmission.

The numbers of cases in the UK is reducing every week due to a very painful lockdown but we are still seeing small spikes of infection mostly related to workplaces or pubs. In other countries the removal of restrictions has seen a huge increase in cases in the younger generation which will spread to vulnerable groups and we will see deaths increase over the next month.

We do not want that to happen here, either for health or economic reasons. We are in danger of relaxing our guard as the risk reduces but just like BVD eradication we need to make it hard for the virus to find a host to survive.

Many of us will be attending breeding sales over the next 2 months and any disruption will have severe consequences.  There are clear guidelines which the markets will follow or you can access these on the internet.

  • Try to travel alone or only with close family. Keep windows open and wear a mask if with others. Disinfect your hands after leaving the vehicle.
  • Register your attendance and keep your distance from others ideally 2m. 
  • Wash or disinfect your hands regularly. Avoid touching your face.
  • Wearing a mask will reduce spread of the virus droplets. 
  • Follow the market instructions as they have worked hard to obey the rules.

If farmers and staff are careless then markets could be shut down, close contacts quarantined and businesses fined for breaking the regulations.

If you have symptoms - mainly a cough, fever, breathlessness, loss of smell but also with headaches, confusion or diarrhoea - then phone 111 for advice or go online at NHS Inform to book a test. You must isolate for 1 week or until a negative test result.  

If positive, you will be asked to give all your recent contacts. Please be honest, even if you have been careless, as they need to trace them all.  If you are a close contact, you must isolate for 2 weeks and all the best gimmers will be sold by then.

Most people will recover but a few will become very ill or die, especially if over 60 or with diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity.  Some are being left with ongoing lung, heart or brain damage.

For business and health reasons take care as you mix at markets this autumn and do not forget biosecurity at home to keep yourself, staff and family safe.

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