The UK’s chief veterinary officer has urged sheep farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus (BTV) after the disease was picked up and dealt with in a consignment of four sheep imported from France.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease as part of routine post-import testing when the sheep were brought to Lancashire. The four sheep have been humanely culled as a result.
The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cattle, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas, and it can reduce milk yield, cause infertility and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals.
The midges are most active between May and October and not all susceptible animals show immediate signs of contracting the virus.
Chief veterinary officer for the UK, Christine Middlemiss, said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can have a serious impact on farming productivity by causing sheep infertility. This is particularly important at this time of year.
“This detection is another example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action but must highlight to farmers the risks that come with bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds. It is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the season when midges are active.”