The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has urged farmers to increase their vigilance for Bluetongue virus after the disease was detected within three consignments of cattle imported from France.
Two consignments were brought to two separate premises in Yorkshire, where the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease as a part of routine post-import testing.
The third consignment was taken to a premises in Northern Ireland.
All infected animals will be “humanely culled”.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety, but outbreaks of the virus can result in restrictions on livestock movement and trade. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cattle, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. It can reduce milk yield and cause infertility, and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals.
The UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: "Farmers must be aware of the risks of bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their flocks and herds. It is vitally important that we keep this disease out.
"This detection is a further example of our robust disease surveillance measures in action, but I urge farmers to remain vigilant. They need to work with importers to make sure effective vaccination needs are complied with and that all animals are sourced responsibly."
All cattle and sheep farmers are reminded to:
- Discuss their needs with a private veterinary surgeon and carefully consider the risks and the health status of animals before deciding to import stock from regions affected by Bluetongue virus
- Carefully consider what additional guarantees the seller can provide as to the animal’s vaccination status before purchasing (for example – by requesting that a pre-export test is carried out to prove immunity to BTV)
- Ensure that imported animals are accompanied by the relevant paperwork to show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination
- Prevent the disease spreading by practising good biosecurity on the farm premises
- Stay alert to any signs of the disease, such as mouth ulcers and drooling from the mouth and nose, and report to APHA if necessary