Bluetongue arrives on British shores

Farmers are braced for continuing uncertainly following a weekend of new animal disease developments.

The UK's first case of Bluetongue virus was detected in a single cow near Ipswich, Suffolk. The cow has been slaughtered and Defra said the virus was of the same strain, Serotype 8, as that detected in Bluetongue outbreaks across northern Europe.

As yet, Defra is not classifying this as an outbreak, because there is just one confirmed case. The premises where Bluetongue was detected remains under restrictions, and epidemiological investigations are being carried out to assess the situation.

Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said: "It remains vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for this disease and report any suspect cases, particularly as clinical signs may be similar to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). I would like to thank the owner, Animal Health and the Institute for Animal Health for their rapid response in helping to detect Bluetongue in this single animal."

Bluetongue affects ruminants including sheep, cattle, deer and goats. It is transmitted by the movement of midges or by movements of infected animals if they are subsequently bitten by midges.

Meanwhile, in Hampshire a new case of FMD is suspected. A 3km temporary control zone has today been put around a premises near Petersfield. This is a precautionary measure following a veterinary assessment of clinical signs. Laboratory tests are ongoing.

Defra said it remains essential for animal keepers to practice the highest standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions immediately. Cattle owners should examine their livestock twice a day.

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