Herd and flock keepers in Northern Ireland urged to remain vigilant for signs of Bluetongue

Date published: 15 June 2018

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Robert J Huey is urging herd and flock keepers to avoid sourcing animals from Continental Europe, especially France, where the area has been affected by Bluetongue.

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment  and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is reminding farmers that imported animals subsequently found to be infected with Bluetongue will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.

Dr Huey said: “Northern Ireland is more at risk from Bluetongue due to farmers importing animals than from windborne spread of the disease from mainland Europe.

“If you choose to bring animals into Northern Ireland from a disease free zone via a Bluetongue infected zone you must ensure you comply with all the conditions on the export health certificate. This should include the treatment of animals and vehicles with an approved insecticide and ensuring all parts of the health certificate for the imported animals have been met. 

“You should avoid importing animals from a Bluetongue infected area. In the unlikely event of this having to take place the animals must have been vaccinated against Bluetongue prior to import to Northern Ireland.  If the animals are pregnant then the vaccination must have been carried out before conception. Again these conditions along with insecticide treatment of animals and vehicles must be attested to by the certifying Veterinarian on the Health Certificate.”

Farmers should not be complacent to the risks of the Bluetongue virus, both BTV-4 and BTV-8 strains, when considering the import of livestock from Continental Europe, especially France. The whole of France is now a Restricted Zone for both the BTV-4 and BYV-8 strains of the Bluetongue virus.

It is vitally important to the industry in Northern Ireland that farmers consider the potentially adverse consequences of importing animals from or transiting through Bluetongue affected countries or zones.

Further information on Bluetongue, including clinical signs and questions and answers can be obtained from the DAERA website or by contacting your local DAERA Direct Regional Office on: 0300 200 7840.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Bluetongue virus is spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal by biting them or by infected germplasm (semen or ova).
  2. Bluetongue affects all ruminants, such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep. Clinical signs can vary by species – although symptoms are generally more severe in sheep. Symptoms include fever, swelling of the head and neck, lameness, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes, drooling and there is often a high mortality rate. Generally cattle and goats are less severely affected but cattle and goats, which appear healthy, can carry high levels of the virus and provide a source of further infection.
  3. Imported animals that are found to be infected with bluetongue will be slaughtered and no compensation is payable.
  4. Animal keepers in Northern Ireland are not permitted to vaccinate their animals against bluetongue.
  5. DAERA reviews and updates its Veterinary Risk Assessment on an ongoing basis in light of new developments, to ensure the measures in place are appropriate and timely.
  6. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  8. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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