As reports continue of a new strain of the Bluetongue virus (BTV-3) in the Netherlands, there is growing concern of its proximity the the UK.
Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) has held emergency meetings, bringing together more than 40 key stakeholders and representatives from across the industry to ensure that the UK is prepared for the emerging threat.
“What we are advising is three-fold. Farmers need to beware when buying animals in, especially from Europe, take action to report any signs of the disease, and at all times, remain vigilant,” said Dr Joseph Henry, president of the Sheep Veterinary Society and member of RH&W’s steering group.
BTV-3 is transmitted by biting midges and can affect all ruminants and camelids. Symptoms can vary, with sheep generally exhibiting more overt symptoms. These can include drooling, mouth lesions, high fever and oedema, and sudden death. In cattle, symptoms may include teat, eye, coronary band and nose lesions.
“The existing BTV-8 serotype vaccine will not offer cross-protection against this new BTV-3 strain, making any likely outbreak difficult to control. Hence it’s so important that we follow the advice to take action and prioritise good biosecurity measures while remaining extremely vigilant to the disease at this stage.”
Dr Henry added: “It remains extremely difficult to protect against midges and vector-borne disease. However, there is always a role for good biosecurity and insecticides, but it’s important to differentiate between products licensed for use on animals, and those designed for use on buildings and vehicles.”
Updating on the emerging threat, Cat Mclaughlin, NFU chief animal health and welfare advisor, and member of the RH&W steering group, said: “As of early October, BTV-3 has been reported on more than 700 farms in the Netherlands.
“Just this week, a new case has been reported in Belgium, meaning BTV-3 is now in two European countries. BTV-3 appears to mimic BTV-8 in its behaviour, leading us to be extremely cautious about the risk it poses.
“Currently, there are no reports of the new strain in the UK. But it is felt that due to the nature of bluetongue’s ability to spread via infected midges and current warm weather conditions, the risk of it reaching the UK is increasing, so we must adhere to advice and do all we can to keep it out,” she says.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive and member of RH&W steering group, added that bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health, but it remains a notifiable disease.
“We’d strongly advise farmers to beware when buying livestock from Europe, and to request pre-movement testing of animals prior to departure,” he says.
“All imports of live animals are subject to post-import testing with restricted movements until a negative post-import test result has been confirmed, so caution is key.”
For more information go to www.ruminanthw.org.uk