The UK’s deputy chief veterinary officer has urged farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus after the disease was detected in two cattle imported from France.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease in the animals when they were brought to North Yorkshire in England from an assembly centre in central France.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety and is transmitted by midge bites. It affects cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. It can reduce milk yield and cause infertility and in severe cases is fatal. The midges are most active between May and October and not all susceptible animals show immediate symptoms. The two cattle found with the virus were isolated and humanely culled.
APHA said following the interception of the infected animals, the UK is officially bluetongue-free, the risk of the disease remains low and exports are not affected.
Deputy chief veterinary officer for the UK, Graeme Cooke, said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease impacts farming, causing reduced milk yield in cows and infertility in sheep. This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action but must highlight to farmers the risks which come with bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds.
“Regulations and systems are in place for the benefit of our UK livestock industry. 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. Farmers must remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA.”
He added: “Farmers should work with their importer to make sure effective vaccination needs are complied with, source animals responsibly and consider the health status of their own herd if they are not protected. Movement restrictions will remain in place on the premises for at least several weeks until testing rules out spread via local midges.”