Farmers are being urged to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus following the discovery of the disease 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, APHA has revealed.

Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety, but strikes cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas.

Transmitted by midge bites, bluetongue can reduce milk yield and cause infertility; in the most severe cases, it 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.

Action is being taken to ensure the risk of spread of the disease is reduced, APHA has assured, with movement restrictions at the affected premises. The two cattle were isolated and have been humanely culled.

Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue are already in place.

Farmers are reminded that animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.

Following the successful interception of the infected animals, the UK remains officially bluetongue-free; the risk of the disease remains low and exports are not affected.

Deputy chief veterinary officer for the UK, Graeme Cooke, commented following the discovery of the animals.

“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,” he warned.

“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.

The officer stressed that farmers have to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA.

“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,” Cooke said.

Farmers have the option to send animals without fully compliant paperwork back to France or to cull them as a measure to reduce the risk of disease spreading to susceptible UK livestock, according to APHA.

The UK Government has worked closely with a number of groups to raise awareness of the threat of bluetongue through the Joint campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB).

The most recent case of the disease in the UK came in 2007. The UK has been officially free from the disease since July 2011.