Monday, 2 October 2023
The last outbreak of bluetongue in Great Britain (GB) was in 2007, meaning GB has remained officially free of the virus since 2011.
However, an outbreak reported on four sheep farms in the Netherlands (North Holland and Utrecht) on 5 September 2023 – the first outbreak in the Netherlands since 2009 – serves as a timely reminder of the clinical signs and the precautions that you can take to minimise the risk of disease spread.
The bluetongue virus is spread by wind dispersal of infected biting midges and through the import of affected animals, their germplasm (sperm and eggs) and foetuses.
Sheep are more likely to show clinical signs of bluetongue than cattle or goats. Some animals may show no clinical signs – these animals pose a risk for spreading the disease to new areas and countries.
If you are importing livestock, sperm or eggs, speak to your vet before deciding to import them and ensure you are following the latest guidance and legislation.
Bluetongue has the potential for rapid spread, with significant production losses for sheep and cattle, and is of major importance to the international trade in livestock.
The disease affects all ruminants and camelids (cattle, sheep, goats, deer, llamas and alpacas) and has the greatest production impact on dairy cattle due to the drop in milk yield. It does not affect humans or have an impact on food safety, but the disease can cause serious illness and death in affected animals.
Vets in the Netherlands are reporting severe illness in sheep, with high fever and lesions around the coronary band, udder, face and mouth.
Bluetongue is a notifiable animal disease; therefore, any suspicion of disease must be reported immediately.
- In England, call the Defra Rural Services Helpline: 0300 020 0301
- In Wales, call 0300 303 8268
- In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office