Keep your guard against bluetongue risk from imports, warns McIlveen

Date published: 09 June 2016

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen today urged farmers in Northern Ireland to remain vigilant and avoid the risk of importing potentially bluetongue infected stock.

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The Minister said: “It is vitally important that we continue to keep bluetongue out. The main risk to Northern Ireland continues to be the import of infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova), particularly in light of the spread of the disease on the continent. Our farmers need to avoid bringing animals here that may have been exposed to infection. This means they should not import animals from countries affected by bluetongue.”

Miss McIlveen added: “As the temperature starts to increase so does the risk from bluetongue, with the widespread circulation of midges. Farmers need to be aware of this risk and should not be complacent. If they import infected stock the risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as trade can be badly affected as a result. 

“Anyone who does take a risk faces the possibility that if the imported animals are found to be infected with bluetongue, they will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.”

If herd/flock owners ignore this advice and import animals from countries where bluetongue is present all susceptible, imported animals will have to be kept housed and isolated until they have been tested for bluetongue and DAERA is satisfied that they do not present a risk. 

The Department continues to work closely with the industry stakeholders, Defra, the other devolved administrations and with their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland to mitigate the threat from bluetongue.

Further information on bluetongue can be found on the DAERA website

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. However, if bluetongue was confirmed in Northern Ireland, a veterinary risk assessment would be carried out and a licence may be issued to permit vaccination. Vaccination against one strain of Bluetongue virus does not give protection against any other strain.
  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. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email DAERA Press Office: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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