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Farmers’ Union of Wales urges vigilance as Bluetongue virus identified in England

12 Nov 2023 2 minute read
Beef cattle stock

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is urging its members to be extremely vigilant following the confirmation of a single case of Bluetongue virus 3 (BTV 3) in a cow on premises in Kent near Canterbury, England on Saturday 11 November 2023.

BTV is a notifiable exotic disease that infects ruminants, such as sheep and cattle, and is transmitted by biting midge which are most active between the months of April and November.

Initial tracings have not identified any connection to Wales from this animal.  However, there is currently no commercial vaccine against BTV 3 that is approved for use in the UK and the FUW is therefore urging its members to consider the origin of purchased stock and the use of over-wintering in high risk areas of England.

As part of a 10km temporary control zone which has been established around the affected premises, the movements of susceptible animals will be restricted.  Additional surveillance is also being undertaken to ensure that this is an isolated case.

For BTV serotypes 1,2, 4 and 8, vaccination is possible and members should discuss the best options for protecting their stock with their vet.  Vaccines do not offer cross protection so vaccination against these BTV serotypes will not protect stock from BTV3.

Early detection

FUW Deputy Head of Policy Dr Hazel Wright, said: “It is perhaps confirmation of our robust GB annual BTV disease surveillance programme that this single case was detected in a non-imported animal.

“This early detection has allowed the appropriate measures to be put in place to minimise the risk of disease transmission further afield in England and offers some protection to our farmers here in Wales.

“Whilst this virus does not affect people or food safety, understanding the risks associated with buying in stock is imperative as the impact of this disease on livestock can be extremely variable. Some animals will show no clinical signs of infection whilst mortality can occur in severe cases.

“BTV can spread rapidly amongst ruminants and can cause significant production losses.  Alongside purchasing livestock from responsible sources, surveillance is the best way to combat the spread of this disease and we are therefore urging members to be vigilant and report any suspicions of disease immediately.”

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