Bluetongue was recently detected in cattle in the U.K that were imported from France.
Bluetongue is a notifiable disease under EU and Irish National legislation that can affect cattle and other animals including sheep, goats and deer.
The viral disease which is currently prevalent in Europe is transmitted by biting midges of the culicoides species.
They are most active between the months of April and November, while the disease is seasonal taking place between July and November in impacted countries.
The infection is transmitted when an uninfected midge takes blood from an infected animal- sheep or cow.
Viruses develop inside the midge if environmental conditions such as temperatures prove to be favourable.
Most active between April and November
According to a fact sheet produced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, some of the clinical signs that an acutely affected animal may display are as follows:
- Swollen face.
- Swollen teats.
- Skin has red appearance.
- Nasal discharge.
- Frothing from mouth.
- Sores and crusts on mouth, face and teats.
- Loss of appetite.
- Swelling of the tongue-which causes breathing issues
- Discolouration and swelling of tongue.
- Swelling of neck & head.
- Respiratory issues.
Symptoms differ between bovine and ovine species.
Many infected animals in Europe display no symptoms, with diagnosis therefore occurring through BTV surveillance testing.
Usually one or two animals may be affected by the disease in a single flock/herd.
Our concern in Ireland
A case has never been recorded in Ireland, however the Department advises that we should be vigilant as our island possess the vectors that transmit Bluetongue.
At least 8 midge species in Ireland are potential vectors for BT, DAFM state.
Serotype-8 is of most concern to Ireland, due to its close geographical proximity to France.
The insect vector species that transmit serotype-8 are also present in Ireland.
Disease eradication could prove to be a difficult movement if this strain ever emerged into Ireland and gained establishment in the insect vector population.
The DAFM outlines that the disease can come to Ireland through the following means:
- Importation of animals – An animal that is carrying the virus is their blood. If the animal was bitten by a certain midge and the environmental conditions proven to be favourable, the midge could transmit infection to other animals.
- Infected midges blown to Ireland from another country- U.K. or France.
- Importation of animal products- Infected semen/ other biological products.
Maintaining Ireland’s bluetongue free-status is vital for flourishing export markets and the Department, farmers and stakeholders have a duty to undertake preventive measures.
The following measures that can be undertaken by farmers to assist with disease prevention have been pinpointed by the DAFM.
- Unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid importing animals from Bluetongue restricted areas in Europe.
- If importing, source from reliable sources.
- Ensure animals are not BT infected before departing- a recent negative PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test. A number of requirements have been set out in Regulation 1266/2007 ( EU rules from the control of Bluetongue)
- Do not purchase or accept animals which have been recently imported without identifying their origin and health status.
- Keep imported animals isolated and indoors until they have received negative test status.
- Report any suspected cases.
- Irish farmers unlike other countries cannot avail of a vaccination. Vaccines were made available to U.K. farmers since July of last year.
A suspected case on your farm
If you suspect a case of Bluetongue on your farm, it is advised to contact your veterinary practitioner or the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Contact your local RVO, details can be found here or phone 1850 200456.
Further information on Bluetongue disease can be found here.