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19 June 2024

Bluetongue does not affect human health or food safety.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has urged farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus.

Last November, APHA and The Pirbright Institute identified the first case of the disease in Great Britain through the annual bluetongue surveillance programme.

Bluetongue virus is primarily transmitted by midge bites and affects cattle, goats, sheep and camelids such as llamas. The impacts on susceptible animals can vary greatly – some show no clinical signs or effects at all while for others it can cause productivity issues such as reduced milk yield, while in the most severe cases can be fatal for infected animals. Bluetongue does not affect human health or food safety.

The virus can also be spread through germplasm (semen, ova, and embryos) as well as transmitted from mother to unborn offspring.

Current situation

There are currently no live cases of bluetongue virus and no evidence that there is circulating bluetongue virus in England. However, given the increase in temperature, there is now an increased risk and bluetongue transmission is possible.

Biting midge activity increases with the warmer Spring weather, and there remains a very high probability of a new introduction of bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) into livestock in Great Britain in 2024 through infected biting midges being blown over from northern Europe, where a number of cases have now been detected.

Farms close to the coast in counties along the east coast of England from Norfolk to Kent and along the south coast from Kent to Devon are at highest risk of incursion.

Biting midges are most active between April and November and the timing of a potential incursion will depend on the temperature and wind patterns. There is an active surveillance programme running, which involves the trapping of midges across the country and working with partners such as the Met Office to monitor the likely spread of the virus based on temperature and wind patterns.

Farmers should continue to monitor their animals frequently for clinical signs and make sure their animals and land are registered with APHA so we can locate animals in the event of an outbreak.

Surveillance of susceptible animals and epidemiological assessments will continue. We will keep the situation under review.

Find out more information on the latest situation and guidance.

Control of the disease  

The Bluetongue Serotype 3 Disease Control Framework was developed in discussion with the farming industry. It sets out how disease control efforts will focus on movement control of susceptible animals and their germinal products (semen, eggs, ova and embryos) as a precautionary tool to stem spread of the disease until a safe and effective vaccine for bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) becomes widely available.

Work is underway with vaccine manufacturers to facilitate safe access to a BTV-3 vaccine as soon as possible, but it is vital that any vaccine has the confidence of industry, consumers and trading partners. This includes understanding the efficacy of any vaccine deployed across all species, together with potential impacts on trade.

Free testing is now available for animals moving from the highest risk counties to live elsewhere in Great Britain or to be sold at a market within a high-risk county where there will be buyers from outside the high-risk counties. This will help guard against animal movements potentially transporting undetected disease to new areas. The high-risk counties are Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said:    

“Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can impact livestock farms, and cause productivity issues.

“We know that the likelihood of bluetongue virus entering Great Britain is increasing and so I would urge farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

“If you intend to move animals to live out of high-risk counties please take advantage of this free testing as it will help stop the movement of undetected disease.”

Animal and Plant Health Agency Chief Executive David Holdsworth said:  

“The Animal and Plant Health Agency’s world-leading scientists, vets and field teams stand ready to tackle an outbreak of bluetongue virus and the deployment of APHA resources will be adapted to ensure the approach remains appropriate and proportionate.

“We will continue to work closely with farmers and animal keepers to ensure they are kept up to date and supported during any outbreak.”

Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue are already in place and farmers are reminded that animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.

Following confirmation of BTV in a non-imported animal in England, some trading partners may restrict exports of bluetongue susceptible animals or their products. The latest information on availability of individual export health certificates can be found on

NI and GB ruminants cannot be exported from an GB Assembly Centre to the European Union or moved to Northern Ireland until further notice.

BTV is a notifiable disease. Suspicion of BTV in animals in England must be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301

More information about bluetongue is available here.

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