Farmers Vigilant As Bluetongue Found In Great Britain


The Ulster Farmers’ Union is urging farmers to be vigilant following confirmation that cattle recently imported to England from France have tested positive for Bluetongue. The infected cattle entered the UK in early September and the virus was detected during routine post-movement testing.

UFU deputy president, David Brown said: “It is reassuring that the systems in place detected the disease quickly and swift action was taken. But it is a reminder to all livestock keepers of the importance of responsibly sourcing animals and to be fully aware of the potential risks when importing animals. Farmers should also be aware that they will not be eligible for compensation if an animal they import is found to have Bluetongue.”

The virus does not pose a threat to human health but it can have a serious impact on animal health causing reduced milk yields, infertility, and even death. Signs of the disease are eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness. “Northern Ireland has been Bluetongue free for a number of years and all cattle farmers want to keep it that way. Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and farmers should report any concerns immediately to DAERA,” said Mr Brown.

Chief Vet Calls For Vigilance After Bluetongue Detected In Cattle Imported To GB 

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 and to be aware of the risks associated with sourcing animals from Continental Europe.

A bluetongue outbreak in GB has caused concern to local NI bio security chiefs. 

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).  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.

“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 GB successfully picked up the infected animals through the robust 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.

Background info: 

Bluetongue is a virus spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal. It affects animals such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep. It does not affect humans.

Bluetongue affects all ruminants (such as sheep, cattle, goat, deer, camels, llamas, giraffes, bison, buffalo, wildebeest and antelope). Other species such as elephants may be affected sporadically. Although sheep are most severely affected. Cattle and goats which appear healthy can carry high levels of the virus and provide a source of further infection. In sheep the clinical signs include:

*  fever

*  swelling of the head and neck

*  lameness

*  inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and eyes

*  drooling

* haemorrhages in the skin and other tissues

*  respiratory problems, such as froth in the lungs and an inability to swallow

*  high mortality rate

*  discoloration and swelling of the tongue (rare)

Although Bluetongue usually causes no apparent illness in cattle or goats (it is possible that cattle will show no signs of illness) however clinical signs have included:

*  nasal discharge

*  swelling and ulceration of the mouth

*  swollen teats.

If you suspect the presence of the disease, contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office immediately.

Animal keepers in Northern Ireland are not permitted to vaccinate their animals against bluetongue. However, if bluetongue was confirmed in Northern Ireland, a veterinary risk assessment would be carried out and a licence may be issued to permit vaccination. Vaccination against one strain of Bluetongue virus does not give protection against any other strain.

Further information on Bluetongue, including clinical signs and questions and answers can be obtained from the DAERA website:

or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Office on 0300 200 7840.