Farmers are advised to stay vigilant for the bluetongue virus following its discovery in a lone cow in Kent. The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer issued the warning on Saturday, prompted by a report from the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Pirbright Institute. The infected cow was identified through Great Britain’s annual bluetongue surveillance program. Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss emphasized the importance of ongoing vigilance among farmers, citing the recent detection as a testament to the effectiveness of disease surveillance procedures. Despite the approaching end of the midge activity season, the threat of the disease persists, and farmers are urged to promptly report any suspicions to APHA. Bluetongue had previously been recorded in the UK in 2018.
What is Bluetongue?
This virus, primarily affecting sheep, is transmitted through midge bites and impacts various animals, including cows, goats, and camelids like llamas. Midge activity peaks between April and November, and not all susceptible animals immediately display symptoms. The effects range from no visible signs to reduced productivity, such as lower milk yield, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.
As of October 2023, approximately 800 outbreaks have been reported across patches in Europe. In response to an outbreak at a farm, measures are being implemented to minimize disease spread, including movement restrictions. The government has confirmed the culling of the infected cow as a precautionary measure to mitigate the risk of further transmission.
A 10km temporary control zone around the affected farm has been put in place, which will restrict movements of susceptible animals except under licence, and additional surveillance will be undertaken.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency has said strict rules about livestock movements are now in place and that imported animals must have compliant paperwork.
Is there a risk of Bluetongue spreading to humans?
Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, according to Ms. Middlemiss. While it does not affect people, the disease can have repercussions on livestock farms, leading to potential productivity issues. Any suspicion of Bluetongue in animals in England should be promptly reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency at 03000 200 301