Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
British sheep farmers are being urged to remain vigilant following confirmation of a new bluetongue strain spreading rapidly in the Netherlands. Concern about the... Warning to UK as bluetongue virus spreads across Europe

British sheep farmers are being urged to remain vigilant following confirmation of a new bluetongue strain spreading rapidly in the Netherlands.

Concern about the proximity of the BTV-3 virus to the UK – and eastern region sheep flocks in particular – prompted an emergency meeting of representatives from more than 40 key industry organisations last month.

Sheep Veterinary Society president Joseph Henry said: “What we are advising is three-fold. Farmers need to beware when buying animals in, especially from Europe, take action to report any signs of the disease, and at all times, remain vigilant.”

BTV-3 is transmitted by biting midges which affect all ruminants. The existing BTV-8 serotype vaccine will not offer cross-protection against the new strain, making any likely
outbreak difficult to control, said Dr Henry.

“It is so important that we follow the advice to take action and prioritise good biosecurity measures while remaining extremely vigilant to the disease at this stage. It remains extremely difficult to protect against midges and a vector borne disease.

“There is always a role for good biosecurity and insecticides – but it’s important to differentiate between products licensed for use on animals, and those designed for use on building and vehicles.”

Symptoms of BTV-3 can vary across ruminants. In sheep, they include drooling, mouth lesions, high fever, lameness, swollen heads and sudden death. Cattle can showsimilar clinical signs as well as teat, eye, coronary band and nose lesions.

Increased risk

NFU chief animal health and welfare advisor Cat Mclaughlin said the disease had reported on hundreds of farms across the Netherlands. It had since been reported in Belgium, she added.

“Due to the nature of bluetongue’s ability to spread via infected midges, and current warm weather conditions, the risk of it reaching the UK is increasing, so we must adhere to advice and do all we can to keep it out.”

National Sheep Assocaition chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We’d strongly advise farmers to beware when buying livestock from Europe, and to request pre-movement testing of animals prior to departure.”

“All imports of live animals are subject to post-import testing with restricted movements until a negative post-import test result has been confirmed, so caution is key.”