Chief Vet calls for extra vigilance on Bluetongue

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Following the finding last month of Bluetongue virus in two cattle imported from France into Great Britain (GB), a further Bluetongue case has now been detected in GB in a sheep, also imported from France.

Reiterating his call for increased vigilance Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Robert Huey has urged all herd and flock keepers to source animals responsibly and to be aware of the risks associated with importing animals from bluetongue affected areas.

Dr. Huey said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but can severely impact farming productivity on affected premises.

“While it is reassuring that the UK’s stringent post-import checks and robust disease surveillance procedures have again been effective, this second finding of the virus in recent weeks is a further reminder to farmers of the need to remain vigilant and highlights the risks of importing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds.”

Livestock importers are strongly reminded to:

- Discuss their needs with a private veterinary surgeon and consider the risks and the health status of animals when sourcing stock from regions affected by Bluetongue virus;

- Consider what additional guarantees the seller can provide such as a pre-export test carried out to prove immunity to Bluetongue Virus;

- Practise good biosecurity on their farm premises - https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/biosecurity

- Stay alert to any signs of the disease, such as mouth ulcers and drooling from the mouth and nose, and report to DAERA immediately.

Dr. Huey 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.”

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.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the discovery of a further case of Bluetongue in Great Britain is concerning.

UFU deputy president, David Brown added: “Farmers must remain vigilant and ensure they source animals responsibly. The two recent cases demonstrate that there are potential risks when importing animals from outside the UK or Republic of Ireland.

“It is reassuring that the systems in place detected the disease quickly and swift action was taken. 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.