The sheep pox virus and the goat pox virus affect sheep and goats and, according to the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA), can cause severe illness and death in these animals.

Outbreaks of these viruses can cause trade and movement restrictions and, because of this, it is helpful to know how to spot it and report it.

Signs of sheep pox and goat pox include:

  • Fever;
  • One or more red spots or blisters on the skin, nose, mouth or body;
  • Swollen lymph nodes, for example on the neck;
  • Depression;
  • Reluctance to eat;
  • Lesions (skin damage) on the tongue;
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes;
  • Swollen eyelids;
  • Breathing difficulties;
  • Death.

Although there is quite an extensive list of symptoms, APHA has warned farmers that some infected animals may not show any signs of disease.

The viruses can be prevented by practicing good hygiene and biosecurity on site.

How to report the viruses

Sheep pox and goat pox are notifiable animal diseases.

This means that if a case of the virus is suspected, it must be reported immediately to APHA. Failure to do so is an offence.

In England, a suspected case should be reported via the rural services helpline of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 03000 200 301.

In Wales, the number to call is 0300 303 8268.

If there is a suspected case of sheep or goat pox in Scotland, the local Field Services Office should be contacted.

How the virus spreads

Sheep pox and goat pox is spread by direct contact between infected animals, or indirect contact with contaminated objects.

These objects can include:

  • Clothing;
  • Footwear;
  • Farm equipment;
  • Bedding;
  • Feed.

The virus can also be spread by aerosols and biting insects.