Bluetongue rearing ugly head again

The first cases of Bluetongue in the UK this summer have been announced on two premises in Southern England.

Imported rams from the BTV8 Restricted Zone in Central France were detected with the virus on premises in Lewes, East Sussex and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and the government is again warning farmers to make preparations to cover potential loses.

Deputy chief veterinary officer of the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), Alick Simmons, said: "These cases emphasise the need for farmers to be aware of the risks of importing animals from within Restricted Zones. This also highlights the importance of vaccination. It is the only effective tool to protect susceptible animals from Bluetongue. Farmers throughout the Protection Zone should vaccinate as soon as vaccine is available to them. The message remains clear - don't hesitate, vaccinate."

The latest outbreaks were detected by Defra during post-import testing which takes place for all Bluetongue susceptible animals arriving from Europe. Movement is legally permitted even for susceptible animals from the BTV8 Protection Zone in France to the Protection Zone in England and Wales and vice versa.

Simmons added: "Bluetongue has recently been confirmed as circulating this year in the Netherlands and large areas of France, despite vaccination programmes being undertaken. Similar re-emergence of disease in the UK would also not be unexpected in the coming weeks."

A mass vaccination campaign against Bluetongue began in April with approximately 21.5m doses made available to farmers while a protection zone for the whole of England was announced this August with Wales soon to follow suit.

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