Blue­tongue: What you need to know

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BLUE­TONGUE dis­ease can in­fect all ru­mi­nants, par­tic­u­larly sheep and cat­tle. The Joint cam­paign Against Blue­tongue (Jab) has put to­gether all the rel­e­vant and use­ful in­for­ma­tion for farm­ers, vets, an­i­mal health ad­vis­ers and wider in­dus­try across the UK.

This in­cludes what blue­tongue is, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and vet­eri­nary ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion about the vac­cine, all of which is avail­able at www. nfuon­line.com What is blue­tongue?

Blue­tongue dis­ease is caused by a virus trans­mit­ted by bit­ing midges, which are most ac­tive be­tween May and Oc­to­ber.

The virus can in­fect all ru­mi­nants – such as sheep, cat­tle, goats and deer – and camelids – such as 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 (BTV-8) is cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing in France.

De­fra has an­a­lysed the risk to live­stock in the UK and it is cur­rently LOW to re­flect the cold weather, wind di­rec­tion and low like­li­hood of virus cir­cu­la­tion in lo­cal midge pop­u­la­tions in the UK.

The most likely route of trans­mis­sion is in­fected midges be­ing blown from France to the South of Eng­land.

The risk from the move­ment of im­ported an­i­mals has been deemed low at present.

Surveil­lance of BTV-8 is be­ing car­ried out in the UK both in midges and bulk milk test­ing.

In June 2016, a sero­log­i­cal sur­vey of bulk milk sam­ples from about 200 ran­domly picked dairy herds across the South­east and East of Eng­land were tested for an­ti­bod­ies to BTV.

The aim was to as­cer­tain the back­ground level of BTV-seropos­i­tive cat­tle and whether this would be a use­ful as an early warn­ing sys­tem for BTV-8 in­cur­sion. Ad­vice for farm­ers

Gov­ern­ment deputy chief vet Simon Hall, said: “We have ro­bust dis­ease surveil­lance pro­ce­dures in place and are work­ing closely with the live­stock in­dus­try to care­fully mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion in France where Blue­tongue dis­ease con­trol mea­sures are in place.

“An­i­mal keep­ers should re­main vig­i­lant for signs of dis­ease and re­port any sus­pi­cions to their vet and the An­i­mal and Plant Health Agency im­me­di­ately.

“Live­stock keep­ers should also con­sider with their vet if vac­ci­na­tion is an op­tion which would ben­e­fit their busi­ness.” What to do if you sus­pect dis­ease

If you sus­pect blue­tongue re­port it im­me­di­ately to the An­i­mal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301.

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