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Farmers remain on alert over cattle bug

First case of bluetongue disease found in England

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins

Ulster farmers have been warned to remain vigilant following the discovery of the killer bluetongue disease in a cow on a rare breeds farm in Suffolk - the first time it has ever been found in the UK.

The insect-borne virus, which does not pose a risk to human health, affects ruminants such as cattle, deer, camelids, goats and, in particular, can be fatal in sheep.

This is the first recorded case of the viral disease in the UK, but it has already killed livestock across northern Europe.

Bluetongue disease is transmitted by midges, traditionally the Culicoides imicola midge. It is passed from animal to midge, and from midge to animal, but is not transmitted from animal to animal.

The premises near Ipswich where the Serotype 8 strain of the virus has been found is now under restrictions and the one infected animal will be culled. However, it is not a confirmed outbreak unless further investigation demonstrates that the disease is circulating.

Epidemiological investigations are being carried out to assess the situation, as the particular strain found is known to have been in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands since August 2006.

Farmers are being urged to regularly check their animals for the clinical signs of the disease.

Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said: "It remains vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for this disease and report any suspect cases, particularly as clinical signs may be similar to foot and mouth disease.

"I would like to thank the owner, Animal Health and the Institute of Animal Health for their rapid response in helping to detect bluetongue in this single animal."

Meanwhile, the farming community is still struggling with the ongoing foot and mouth disease outbreaks that mean Northern Ireland's ports remain closed to the import of livestock from Great Britain.

For further information on bluetongue disease, visit the DARD website at

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