Farmers in Northern Ireland must remain vigilant for signs of the Bluetongue virus after it was detected in two cattle imported from France into Great Britain by stringent post-import checks.

Calling for increased vigilance here, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Robert Huey, is reminding all herd and flock keepers to source animals responsibly.

They should also be aware of the risks associated with sourcing animals from continental Europe, he added.

Dr. Huey said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but can have a severe impact on affected farms and to international trade.

“While the UK’s robust disease surveillance procedures have worked, the latest identification of the virus reminds farmers for the need to remain vigilant and highlights the risks of importing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds.

The main risk to Northern Ireland remains the import of infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova).

Dr. Huey said that farmers should consider the potentially severe consequences of importing animals from, or transiting through, Bluetongue affected countries or zones.

“The risk is not only to themselves but to our whole industry as trade can be badly affected as a result. It is vital that all of us continue to work hard to keep Bluetongue out.”

The chief veterinary officer added: “Anyone who imports from Bluetongue affected countries or zones faces the possibility that if the imported animals are subsequently found to be infected with bluetongue, then they will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.”

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in Britain picked up the infected animals through its post-import testing regime.

APHA is working closely with the livestock keeper affected to ensure that swift action is taken to prevent spread of the disease with movement restrictions at the affected premises, targeted surveillance and the humane culling of animals where necessary.

The UK remains officially bluetongue-free and exports are not affected.