Cattle and sheep farmers face a increased risk from a bluetongue outbreak this summer as the weather becomes warmer, government scientists have warned.
Published by Defra, the latest risk assessment (PDF) suggests UK farmers should remain vigilant for the virus, as the number of outbreaks continues to rise in France.
“Our risk level remains the same, however the weather is starting to improve and as daily average temperatures increase in mainland France and the UK, so our risk level will start to increase.”
France has now reported a total of 285 outbreaks of bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8), which is 13 new outbreaks since the last Defra update on 13 May.
All the recent French outbreaks are in cattle holdings, detected by surveillance activities, although the Defra update says the likely date of infection remains unclear.
“No increase in spread towards the north coast of France has been reported, but cases have been detected through surveillance towards the northerly area of the restriction zone.”
The report says bluetongue is an unusual virus in the way it be transmitted.
Calves or lambs born to positive dams or ewes may be viraemic and represent a source of new disease outbreaks – even if the adult animals show little sign of the virus.
“We will continue to monitor the current situation in France and report any further updates
from the French authorities,” says the Defra report.
Vaccine will made be available in the UK from July onwards, but any decision to vaccinate is being left up to individual farmers, in consultation with their private veterinary surgeon.
Earlier this year, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) warned there was an 80% chance of bluetongue arriving in the UK from France by the end of the summer.