Livestock: Notifiable diseases

Outbreaks of notifiable diseases on farm are serious and there is a legal requirement to immediately report any incidence to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). While there are some species-specific notifiable diseases, e.g. African swine fever in pigs, many can affect more than one species, e.g. foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, sheep, pigs and other cloven-hoofed animals.

Prevention is better than cure

Preventing the introduction, and limiting the spread, of notifiable diseases through good biosecurity is very important. An outbreak of a notifiable disease can be disastrous for farmers, causing serious distress and financial losses, not just for those whose farms are directly affected but for many others affected by the restrictions and the risk of breakdown.

What are the consequences of a disease outbreak?

Outbreaks of notifiable diseases often lead to immediate loss of export markets and it can take many years to regain access. Reports of disease in the news can also lead to a loss of confidence in UK consumers.

How is disease contained once a notifiable disease is detected?

UK policy is generally to eradicate notifiable diseases as quickly as possible. Actions may include:

  • National, regional and/or local movement controls
  • Establishment of protection, surveillance and or disease-risk control zones
  • Humane culling and disposal of infected and exposed animals
  • Disinfection or destruction of infected premises, vehicles, equipment and animal products
  • Surveillance of susceptible animals (may include wild animals)
  • Restriction on the activities of certain enterprises, e.g. markets, abattoirs within some control zones

The disease may also be controlled through vaccination campaigns to control disease, if a vaccine is available and authorised.

Further information on the Contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases of animals in England has been published by Defra and APHA on

Notifiable diseases: how to spot and report them