The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, has said that bluetongue temporary control zones (TCZ) will shortly be lifted, as cases of the disease sit at 86.
Middlemiss said the seasonally low vector period means that the TCZs in Norfolk and Kent can be lifted as bluetongue risk has dropped.
A seasonally low vector period means that midge activity is much lower, and they are not actively feeding due to the drop in temperature.
Middlemiss said the farmers who have individual premises under restriction will be contacted in the coming days.
Due to the current environmental and vector conditions, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has taken the decision to not cull infected animals where test results indicate older infection and the presence of bluetongue antibodies.
Although the risk of the disease has dropped, Middlemiss is still urging vigilance among farmers and those in bluetongue control zones.
“Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can impact livestock farms, and cause productivity issues,” she said.
“These detections are 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.
“We are now in a seasonally low vector period, when midge activity is much lower and there is reduced risk of disease, however I urge farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA.”
Head of field delivery for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Aled Edwards, said: “The current environmental and vector conditions mean that some licence restrictions on movements can now be eased.
“APHA teams will continue to work closely with farmers as these changes take effect to issue licences when conditions are met and ensure moves can take place where there is no risk of disease spreading.”
The 86 confirmed cases of bluetongue have been confirmed on 48 premises across three counties.
Defra has said there is still no evidence that bluetongue virus is currently circulating in midges in Great Britain and that surveillance is ongoing.
The lower midge activity levels is due a decrease in temperature which prevents the virus from replicating in midges.
This means that, if a midge does feed on an infected animal, the risk of transmission to another animal is very low.
Although the department has taken the decision not to cull infected animals where bluetongue antibodies are present and test results indicate older infection, infected animals may still be restricted at their current locations with other disease mitigation measures taken as appropriate.
The reduced risk from midges means that some movements of live animals out of the zone can now be temporarily permitted if they meet certain conditions including testing negative in a pre-movement test.
“We have also eased the restrictions on movements of animals within the TCZs and will allow movements of animals into the zones,” Defra said.
“Surveillance of susceptible animals and epidemiological assessments within the TCZs will continue. We will keep the situation under review.”