RUMA guidelines for the responsible use of vaccines by fish farmers have been designed to give easy-to-read guiding principles that can be used by fish farmers in the management of their fish stocks.
The responsible use of medicines has always been a fundamental principle of good livestock keeping and is given further impetus by the encouragement of farm health planning under the Great Britain Animal Health and Welfare Strategy (AHWS). Farm health planning represents one of the direct ways in which the livestock sector, specifically individual producers, can be persuaded of the cost benefits of adopting on-farm health strategies. Best practice in the use of veterinary medicines must be an integral part of effective health planning, and these RUMA guidelines aim to define that best practice.
The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is a growing coalition of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process. It has been set up to review and provide guidance on the use of medicines in all livestock. As part of this work RUMA has established practical strategies to promote the correct use of vaccines in the aquaculture industry.
From the 1990s vaccines have made a major contribution to improving fish health, welfare and productivity. They are vital component in preventing a wide variety of diseases.
To communicate these strategies effectively to the industry RUMA has produced a comprehensive set of guidelines for the responsible use of vaccines in fish and other livestock production. These give advice on all aspects from the initial risk assessment to best practice for their use. They also provide clear strategies for the implementation of effective vaccination programmes for farmers and veterinary surgeons to make best use of these valuable products.
When fish are exposed to infections and survive then they will develop immunity and so they are usually completely, or partially, immune or resistant to other attacks by the same organism. The fish when first infected may become ill and need treatment. Vaccination mimics infection and so it provides immunity without the fish succumbing to the disease. Thus the fish becomes resistant to the disease before it becomes infected and so, if later on the fish is exposed to the infection, it will usually not show any signs, or only minor signs, of illness. This will result in fish being healthier and also requiring less treatments. This is beneficial to the fish, the farmer and the consumer. All fish will be immune naturally from exposure to some diseases and there is no risk from consuming food from healthy fish which have been previously vaccinated to produce similar immunity.
The guidelines summarises the responsibilities that fish farmers have as they use vaccines to safeguard the health, welfare and productivity of their fish stocks.
All farmers have a responsibility to safeguard the health and welfare of the animals under their control. There are occasions where this a joint responsibility with their veterinary surgeon, such as in the discharge of correct and appropriate vaccination programmes. Farmers and stock-keepers can play a major role in ensuring that these responsibilities are properly discharged and that medicines are responsibly used by observing the guidelines published here. Similar guidelines form part of all farm assurance schemes.
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