If a farmer imports just one bluetongue-infected animal into Northern Ireland at the wrong time it could spark an outbreak that could be difficult to get under control.
That’s the warning from scientists who are investigating the midges that play a key role in spreading the deadly livestock disease.
After bluetongue began sweeping through northern Europe |in 2006, scientists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute launched a programme to find out where and when the biting culicoides midges would be at their most concentrated if bluetongue reaches our shores. They say it will be an early warning system for the deadly disease, which has devastated farms across northern Europe and sparked the establishment of vast bluetongue surveillance zones across England.
Bluetongue, which affects sheep, cattle, deer and goats, had not previously been recorded in the UK until a couple of years ago. Sheep are most severely |affected, but cattle are the main mammalian reservoir of the |virus. However, humans are not affected.