The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Northern Ireland (NI) has urged farmers to be vigilant following confirmation of a single case of Bluetongue Virus (BTV-3) in a cow in Kent.
Bluetongue virus (BTV) is a notifiable exotic disease and is transmitted by midge bites. It affects cows, goats, sheep and camelids such as llamas. The midges are most active between the months of April and November. There are currently no vaccines which are effective against this serotype of the virus (BTV-3).
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety. Meat and milk from infected animals are safe to eat and drink.
NI's Chief Veterinary Officer 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. For more information on clinical signs please see the DAERA website (Bluetongue | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (daera-ni.gov.uk))
"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."
Defra has taken measures to ensure that the risk of spread of the disease is reduced, with movement restrictions at the affected premises. The cow has been culled to reduce the risk of onward disease transmission. A 10km temporary control zone around the affected farm is also in place, which will restrict movements of susceptible animals except under license.
As a result of this confirmed case of BTV-3, moves of all ruminants and their germinal products from Great Britain (GB) to NI will be temporarily suspended as they are now not eligible for certification.
In addition to our general surveillance for BTV, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is also taking immediate action to trace all cattle and sheep movements into NI from GB since 1 October. These livestock will require isolation and post import testing by the Department. Local Divisional Veterinary Offices will be in contact with affected livestock owners to arrange testing which will assist in ensuring that NI remains BTV free.
It is important that farmers report early any suspicions of disease to their Private Veterinary Practitioner, to the DAERA Helpline promptly on 0300 200 7840 or by contacting their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.
More information about bluetongue is here: Bluetongue | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (daera-ni.gov.uk)