Bluetongue

On this page

  • Latest information
  • JAB campaign
  • Symptoms and what to do
  • Information from APHA
  • Useful links

Latest information

30th June 2017: AHPA continue to report on the risk level to UK producers of Bluetongue infection in the UK. The current risk is considered to be low with no further cases of Bluetongue detected along the North coast of France where possible migration of midges could cause spread to the UK. AHPA will provide fortnightly reports throughout the vector season (When midges have potential to spread disease). A full assessment of the current risk can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

 

Joint campaign against bluetongue (JAB)

NSA is once again supporting the joint campaign against bluetongue (JAB), which was the industry-wide initiative created the last time bluetongue hit the UK. Although vaccination will not be compulsory this time, JAB is highlighting the 80% risk of the virus spreading to the UK this summer and encouraging farmers in high risk areas to think about vaccination.

What to do

  • Monitor stock carefully and report any clinical signs of disease.
  • Source animals responsibly and check the health status of animals you are looking to buy.
  • Consider vaccination as a method of reducing the spread of infection; consult your vet about if you want help assessing the risk to your flock.
  • Maintain good biosecurity, such as washing equipment after use.

What to look out for

  • Lethargy, reluctance to move 
  • Ulcers in the mouth and on the muzzle
  • Discharge of mucus and drooling from mouth and nose
  • Swelling of the muzzle, face and above the hoof
  • Redding of the skin above the hoof
  • Redness of the mouth, eyes, nose
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Breathing problems

Who to contact: Bluetongue is notifiable, which means if you suspect an animal is showing signs of disease you must tell APHA immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

  • In England, call 03000 200301
  • In Wales, call 03003 038268
  • In Scotland, contact your local APHA Field Services Office

More information on bluetongue, by Amanda Carson of APHA

"A decade ago bluetongue was one of those diseases with a strange name that was only found in the tropical areas of the world. Occasionally midges infected with the bluetongue virus (BTV) would be blown from North Africa into the Mediterranean countries, but in 2006 bluetongue disease emerged in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France and, the year after, infected midges were blown across the channel to East Anglia. 

"There are currently 26 different serotypes and the bluetongue strain that appeared in Northern Europe (BTV8) had never been seen outside Africa before. While BTV can affect all cloven hoofed livestock, BTV8 caused severe clinical disease in sheep and some Belgian flocks saw 25% losses in 2006. BTV does not cause disease in humans.

"A BTV8 vaccine was produced in 2008 and use of this, combined with surveillance testing, brought things under control in Europe by 2012 – until August 2015 when it re-emerged in France. The main risks the outbreak in France poses are importation of infected animals and the arrival of infected midges. Midge movements may be considerable (up to 250km a day by wind and 16km a day over water) and so APHA and the Pirbright Institute are working closely with the Met Office to monitor weather patterns that may suggest increased risk. Animals can only be imported with a veterinary health certificate and so APHA can trace these and test them for BTV.

"Ruminants get BTV when infected midges feed on livestock and transmit the virus via their bite. The virus doesn’t pass from animal-to-animal; only biting midges can spread it. However BTV8 is a strain that can pass from the dam across the placenta to the offspring. The virus circulates and multiplies in the animal, taking around three days to cause clinical disease, during which time the animal’s immune system responds, causing fever. The virus targets the cells that line the small blood vessels and, once damaged, these capillaries cause blood and serum to leak out of the blood vessels leading to swelling (oedema), redness (inflammation) and pain. 

"The signs of bluetongue infection are fever-face-feet. Of these, the first sign is fever. Sheep are depressed, their ears go down and they look sick. As the virus damages the blood vessels, serum leaks out leading to oedema swelling, often seen around the face but also causing reddening of the gums, small erosions and even bleeding. Oedema and reddening around the skin at the top of the feet can be seen. All this swelling causes pain, the sheep drool, may have difficulty breathing and are lame. Secondary infections may cause crusting around the nose and, in rare cases, oedema in the throat can cut off the blood supply to the tongue, causing it to go blue. The swelling from oedema, bleeding and inflammation that can be seen on the outside is also occurring inside, in the lungs and other organs, and this is what can kill sheep. If the sheep is pregnant when it is bitten by an infected midge, the virus can attack the foetus and cause abortion.

"Viral disease can’t be cured by antibiotics and insect repellents can only do so much – only vaccination can protect sheep. Both MSD Animal Health and Zoetis have announced that vaccine will be available in July so farmers are advised to register requirements with their vet, especially if they run an early breeding flock."

 

Useful links

 

Downloads

Visible signs of bluetongue. (Pictures kindly provided by the Pirbright Institute)
Visible signs of bluetongue. (Pictures kindly provided by the Pirbright Institute)
Posters and leaflets are available to download at the bottom of this page.
Posters and leaflets are available to download at the bottom of this page.