Emergence of Bluetongue virus in UK: Impact on farming and livestock safety
The United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer has issued a warning to farmers to stay vigilant after the Bluetongue virus was detected in the regions of Kent and Norfolk. This development follows the identification of the first case of the disease in November through Great Britain’s annual bluetongue surveillance program, conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute.
Further cases of Bluetongue have been confirmed in cattle and sheep in Kent and Norfolk, as identified through active surveillance. In response, temporary control zones have been established around the affected farms to restrict the movement of susceptible animals, except under a license. These measures are crucial in managing and controlling the spread of the disease.
It is important to note that Bluetongue does not pose any threat to human health or food safety. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and primarily affects cows, goats, sheep, and other camelids such as llamas. Not all animals show immediate signs of contracting the virus, and its impact can vary significantly. While some animals show no symptoms, others may experience reduced productivity, such as a decrease in milk yield. In severe cases, the virus can be fatal.
The UK has strict regulations regarding the movement of livestock from regions affected by Bluetongue. Farmers are reminded that imported animals from these areas must be accompanied by relevant paperwork, showing compliance with conditions designed to reduce the disease’s risk, such as proper vaccination.
The confirmation of Bluetongue in a non-imported animal in England may lead to restrictions on the export of susceptible animals or their products by some trading partners. Current details on the availability of individual export health certificates can be found on Gov.uk. Furthermore, the movement of ruminants from GB Assembly Centres to the European Union or Northern Ireland has been halted until further notice.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss emphasized the disease’s potential impact on livestock farms and productivity. She reiterated the importance of robust disease surveillance procedures and the need for farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA. Bluetongue is a notifiable disease, and any suspicion of it in animals in England must be reported to APHA.