Rare disease alert - first ever case of goat retrovirus recorded in NI - animals slaughtered as a result

Farmers in Northern Ireland are on alert after the first ever confirmed case of a rare goat disease was recorded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) recently.

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Northern Ireland, Dr Robert Huey urged farmers to remain vigilant following the confirmed case of the goat disease, Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) on a holding in County Londonderry.

Some of the animals had to be slaughtered under the supervision of DAERA officials.

Some of the animals had to be slaughtered under the supervision of DAERA officials.

As a result of the Department’s robust surveillance activity DAERA has confirmed a goat tested positive on a holding.

CAE is a lentivirus infection which affects goats and it is a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland.

Dr Huey, said: “This is the first ever confirmation of the CAE virus in NI, other than those recorded at post-import checks.

"The virus is found worldwide, but until this detection, the disease has never been recorded on the island of Ireland.

"The goat was imported from Great Britain (GB) and an initial epidemiological assessment has concluded that the most likely source of infection was at the herd of origin in GB."

“It is thanks to the Department’s ongoing annual surveillance activity that the disease was detected in this animal, allowing effective disease control measures to be actioned.

"Movement restrictions were placed on the premises and animals were slaughtered under DAERA supervision.”

Dr Huey said that keeping disease out is vital for trade and urged farmers to continue to practise good bio-security measures.

He added: “Keeping NI free from animal diseases, in so far as possible, is vital to maintain our high standards of animal health and underpin the trading status of NI agri-food.

"While CAE certainly adversely affects the health of goats due to pain and disability, the presence of this disease could potentially have serious economic implications.

"The economic impact of CAE includes reduced productivity, early culling, paralysis and death in kids, gradual drop in milk yield due to mastitis and potential damage to export sales.

“It is essential that we continue to take the necessary steps to protect our animals, industry, international trade and the wider economy.

"I would strongly encourage farmers to follow DAERA guidance on responsible sourcing of animals and to be aware of the significant risks and the potentially adverse consequences, both for themselves and for the industry of a disease incursion.”

The main clinical sign of CAE is lameness caused by arthritis in the older animal.

Most goats are infected at an early age, remain virus positive for life and can transmit the virus.

The disease develops months to years later.

Other clinical signs include hard udder syndrome, poor condition of coat, loss of hair and paralysis in kids’ legs.

The Department continues to test all movements of sheep and goats from GB and mainland Europe.

Following the slaughter of the animals in the herd, further sampling and tracings will be carried out to ensure no further spread of disease has occurred.

More information on CAE, including clinical signs, imports and compensation payable, can be found on the DAERA website at: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/caprine-arthritis-encephalitis-cae or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Office on: 0300 200 7840.

If you suspect that your goats are showing signs of the disease you should immediately report it to your local DAERA Direct Office.

CAE is not a zoonotic disease and there are therefore no human health issues.