Movements of ruminant animals, including cattle and sheep, from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI) have been suspended following the confirmation of a case of bluetongue virus (BTV) in England.

The disease was confirmed in a single cow in Kent in the southeast of England.

The cow was culled to reduce the risk of onward disease transmission.

On foot of this case, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer has urged farmers to be vigilant.

Dr. Robert Huey said: “While bluetongue doesn’t affect people or food, it can have a significant impact on livestock. It can cause sickness, reduce reproductive performance, reduce milk yield and, in the most severe cases, it can cause death in adult animals.

“Farmers must be vigilant in sourcing livestock from responsible sources, spotting clinical signs early and reporting the disease as soon as possible,” Dr. Huey added.

He said: “We are taking all actions necessary to assure ourselves that the disease hasn’t and won’t spread to Northern Ireland, including carrying out post-import surveillance.”

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that moves of all ruminants and their germinal products – such as semen and embryos – from the island of Great Britain to Northern Ireland have been temporarily suspended and are now not eligible for certification.

DAERA is also taking action to trace all cattle and sheep movements into Northern Ireland from Great Britain since October 1.

These livestock will require isolation and post-import testing by DAERA. Local divisional veterinary offices will be in contact with affected livestock owners to arrange testing which will assist in ensuring that Norther Ireland remain free of bluetongue.

Farmers in Northern Ireland are asked to report any suspicions of bluetongue virus to DAERA.

Bluetongue virus is a notifiable exotic disease and is transmitted by midge bites. It can affect cows, goats and sheep, among other animals.

The midges are most active between the months of April and November. There are currently no vaccines which are effective against the type of bluetongue virus confirmed in England.

Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety. Meat and milk from infected animals are safe to eat and drink.#