The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has urged farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus after the disease was found in Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the first case of the disease in November through Great Britain’s annual bluetongue surveillance programme.
Active surveillance in Kent and Norfolk Temporary Control Zones has now identified further cases in cattle and sheep. Temporary control zones have been put in place around the affected farms in Kent and Norfolk, restricting the movement of susceptible animals except under licence.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. The midges are most active between April and November and not all susceptible animals show immediate, or any, signs of contracting the virus.
The impacts on susceptible animals can vary greatly – some show no symptoms or effects at all – while for others it can cause productivity issues such as reduced milk yield, while in the most severe cases can be fatal for infected animals.
Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue are already in place and farmers are reminded that animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can impact livestock farms, and cause productivity issues.
“These detections are an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action and it is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the midge activity season.
“Farmers must remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA.”