The UK’s chief veterinary officer has urged farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus (BTV) after the disease was found in a single cow in Kent.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease in the cow through Great Britain’s annual bluetongue surveillance programme.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said today (Saturday, November 11) that action is being taken to ensure the risk of spread of the disease is reduced, with movement restrictions at the affected premises.
The cow was culled to reduce the risk of onward disease transmission.
A 10km temporary control zone around the affected farm has been put in place, which will restrict movements of susceptible animals except under license, and additional surveillance will be undertaken, Defra said.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cows, goats, and sheep, among other animals.
The midges are most active between April and November. Not all susceptible animals show immediate, or any, signs of contracting the virus.
The impacts on susceptible animals can vary considerably. Some show no symptoms or effects at all, while other animals will experience productivity issues such as reduced milk yield.
In the most severe cases, the disease can be fatal for infected animals.
Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue are already in place and 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 confirmation of BTV in the non-imported animal in England, some trading partners may restrict exports of bluetongue susceptible animals or their products.
Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can impact livestock farms, and cause productivity issues.
“This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action and it is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the midge activity season,” Middlemiss added.
She called on farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions of the disease.