The Chief Veterinary Officer of Northern Ireland, Dr Robert Huey, has urged farmers to remain vigilant, as he confirmed that Bluetongue was detected in an animal.
The animal in question was a heifer imported from France last week and tested positive for the Bluetongue virus after a series of post-import testing.
“This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action, however the identification offers another timely reminder to farmers for the need to think carefully before importing susceptible animals from Bluetongue affected areas.” Dr Huey said.
“It is vitally important that we keep Bluetongue out. The risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as the impacts on trade could be catastrophic as a result.” He added.
He warned any farmers importing cattle from Bluetongue-affected regions, then they should carry out additional safety measures, to prevent another outbreak.
“If farmers feel they must import from Bluetongue-affected countries they should consider what additional guarantees the seller can provide such as requesting a pre-export test to be carried out to prove effective immunity to the Bluetongue virus.” Dr. Huey noted.
“Anyone who imports from Bluetongue affected countries or zones risks the possibility that if the imported animals are subsequently found to be infected with Bluetongue that they will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.” He added.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have confirmed that they have taken the necessary actions to prevent the virus from being spread, with the infected heifer humanely culled. Veterinary inspections are also underway, with movement restrictions in place on the affected premises.
The Department is also tracing and testing associated herds and an epidemiological investigation has been initiated to assess the situation in a bid to see if the virus has spread. They advised, however, that this is unlikely due to this not being the active season for midges, the cause for the spread of the virus.
“Therefore, at this time the UK remains officially Bluetongue free.” They confirmed.
What is Bluetongue?
Bluetongue is a notifiable disease under the EU and Irish National legislation. The disease is known to affect not only cattle but also sheep, deer and goats.
The disease is a viral one, transmitted by biting midges from the culicoides species. The main time of infection is between the months of April and November when midges are most active. The disease itself is seasonal, occurring anytime between July and November.
The infection is transmitted via midges when one uninfected midge takes a blood sample from an infected animal. The virus then develops inside the insect, providing environmental conditions such as temperature are favourable.
At least 8 midge species in Ireland are potential vectors for Bluetongue, according to the Department of Agriculture, with Serotype-8 the greatest concern due to its close proximity to France. The midge that transmits this Serotype-8 is also found in Ireland.
There are many telltale signs to identify if your animal is infected, which are listed below. Many infected animals display zero symptoms and usually, it is one or two herd/flock members that are infected. Symptoms slightly differ between bovine and ovine species, which you can see below.
Signs in Cattle:
- 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.
Treatment and Prevention -
There are quite a few preventative measures which can be taken by farmers in order to prevent infection.
- Unless it is absolutely necessary, it is advised to avoid importing animals from Bluetongue restricted areas in Europe, such as France.
- If importing, source from reliable sources only.
- Ensure animals are not BT infected before departing.
- 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.
NOTE - 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.