November 4, 2012



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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Animal and Plant Health Agency
Veterinary & Science Policy Advice Team – International Disease Monitoring
Updated Situation Assessment No.8

What is bluetongue?

Bluetongue disease is caused by a virus transmitted by biting midges, which are most active between May and October. Bluetongue virus can infect all ruminants (e.g. sheep, cattle, goats and deer) and camelids (e.g. llama and alpaca). Sheep are most severely affected by the disease. Cattle, although infected more frequently than sheep, do not always show signs of the disease.

Outbreaks of bluetongue affect farm incomes through reduced milk yield, sickness, reduced reproductive performance (failed pregnancies, abortion, central nervous system deformities in the calf or lamb) or, in severe cases, the death of adult animals.

Bluetongue virus does not affect people and consumption of meat and milk from infected animals is safe.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease. That means if you suspect an animal is showing signs of disease you must tell the Animal and Plant and Health Agency (APHA) immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

Current situation

Bluetongue serotype 8 and 4 (BTV-8 and BTV-4) is currently circulating in France.

Bluetongue has been successfully picked up in a number of cattle imported from France through the UK’s robust post-import testing regime. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) identified the disease in cattle after they were brought to Preston and Kendal in England and two locations in Scotland.

A restriction zone has been put in place across the whole of mainland France for BTV-4 and BTV-8. Animals must be correctly vaccinated against BTV-4 and BTV-8 or be naturally immune to both virus serotypes, prior to leaving the restriction zone.

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

The affected animals will be dealt with under the Trade in Animals and Related Products regulations. Cattle with a high risk of being infected with the BTV-8 strain of bluetongue or which had not been vaccinated before being exported have been humanely culled. Movement restrictions will be in place on the premises for several weeks until testing rules out spread via local midges.

Full details on

Defra has analysed the risk to livestock in the UK and it is currently LOW to reflect the low level of infection in northern France.

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