NI’s Chief Vet urges vigilance on Bluetongue virus

Date published: 14 May 2024

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Northern Ireland (NI) has urged farmers to be vigilant following the latest risk assessment of bluetongue virus entering Great Britain, published by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

DARD News

In its latest risk assessment, APHA confirm there is a very high probability of a new introduction of Bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) into livestock in Great Britain through infected biting midges being blown over from Northern Europe. Biting midges are most active between April and November and the timing of a potential incursion will depend on the temperature and wind patterns.

Bluetongue virus (BTV) is a notifiable exotic animal disease and is transmitted by midge bites. It affects cows, goats, sheep and camelids such as llamas. There are no authorised vaccines available for BTV-3 in the UK or Europe, but the UK government are actively engaging with vaccine manufacturers on the development of a BTV-3 vaccine for use in the UK. 

BTV does not affect people or food safety. There are no public health concerns in respect of potentially infected animals.

NI’s Chief Veterinary Officer Brian Dooher said: “The first case of BTV-3 in Great Britain was detected in a cow in Kent last November. Since then, there have been 126 bluetongue cases confirmed in England across 73 premises in four counties, with the last cases confirmed on the 8 March 2024. To date there have been no cases reported in Northern Ireland.

“This is the latest disease threat to the Northern Ireland livestock population and DAERA remains committed to minimising the risk of introduction. As a result of these confirmed cases of BTV-3, moves of all live ruminants from Great Britian to Northern Ireland are suspended as they cannot meet certification requirements.

“Surveillance for this disease within Northern Ireland has been increased to assist with detection at the earliest opportunity which will facilitate more effective control measures. With this disease and its method of spread an infected animal on farm may be the first indicator of introduction to Northern Ireland.

“It is important that farmers remain vigilant and report early any suspicions of disease to their Private Veterinary Practitioner, the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or by contacting their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.”

Download more information about BTV on the DAERA website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Bluetongue virus (BTV) is a notifiable exotic disease that infects ruminant animals (such as sheep, cattle, goats and deer) and camelids (such as llama and alpaca). 
  2. It is caused by a virus that is spread by biting midges. Midges are most active between April and November. Virus transmission can occur when temperatures are higher than 12oc.
  3. The virus can also be transmitted via infected germinal products (semen, ova and embryos). 
  4. There are 26 known serotypes of BTV, several of which are circulating in Europe. BTV3, BTV4 and BTV8 pose the greatest risk due to the proximity of nearby outbreaks in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. England is at risk of these serotypes of BTV arriving via midges carried across the English Channel and North Sea on the wind. 
  5. Download the Defra Press Release confirming a very high probability of a new introduction of bluetongue virus (BTV-3) into Great Britain.
  6. Download the APHA latest risk assessment.
  7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk or telephone: 028 9016 3460.
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
  9. Follow DAERA on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook

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