NFU North West Livestock Board Chairman Bill Mellor has echoed calls from the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer for farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus after the disease was picked up and dealt with in a consignment of four sheep imported to Lancashire from France.
Although extremely wary of the virus, Bill feels there is no cause for alarm as its recent detection in Lancashire proves post import testing is ongoing and working. APHA and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease when the sheep were brought to Lancashire as a part of routine post-import testing. Four sheep have been humanely culled as a result.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cattle, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. It can reduce milk yield and cause infertility and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals.
Mr Mellor who farms at Higher Farm in Hazel Grove, Stockport in Cheshire, said: “Anyone importing sheep or cattle into this country should comply with the strict biosecurity rules and regulations. They should know the disease status of the farm the livestock have been purchased from and have made sure they are suitably vaccinated before purchase. It’s also imperative that all documentation is original and correct.”
Midges are most active between May and October and not all susceptible animals show immediate signs of contracting the virus.
Mr Mellor added: “Thankfully the BTV8 bluetongue strain is spread from sheep to midges and then midge to other sheep. We are at a time of the year when midges are less active so hopefully the virus in this region has been dealt with and has not been spread any further.”
- Prevent the disease spreading by practising good biosecurity on the farm premises.
- Stay alert to any signs of the disease, such as mouth ulcers and drooling from the mouth and nose, and report to APHA immediately.
Following the successful interception of the affected consignment, the UK remains officially bluetongue-free.
More information about bluetongue is available here.