Midges Blown from North Europe Spark Concerns of Bluetongue Virus for Sheep and Cattle

Bluetongue Virus
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Experts have warned that a new form of an animal disease appears likely to spread throughout England, which might have disastrous effects on cattle farmers. According to the authorities, there is a “very high probability” that infected midges carried across from northern Europe would transmit the bluetongue virus more extensively. In England, there have been 126 occurrences on sheep and cattle ranches. Neither food safety nor individuals are impacted by the virus. Farmers are urging the expeditious development of a vaccine to combat this strain. There have been over 6,000 instances of the new strain, known as BTV-3, in the Netherlands, where one vaccine was granted emergency approval last week.

However, before a vaccination could be made available, a representative for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated that it must receive “full market authorisation” in the UK. While the virus can cause a herd of sheep to lose about 30% of its members, the mortality rate in cattle is lower. This disease affects animal welfare and lowers milk yields by causing sores on the tongue and mucous membranes, swallowing difficulties, lameness, and stiffness. Despite having a control zone with movement restrictions in place, bluetongue broke out just before Christmas for Kent farmer Roger Dunn, who raises 1,200 sheep and 400 cattle.

He was paid to slaughter six cattle in order to stop the virus from spreading throughout the farm, preventing it from infecting the sheep. But Mr. Dunn is aware that the outcome could have been much worse.

“When you could be losing 30 to 40% of your business, it is a big worry,” he told the sources.

“These are all pedigree Sussex cattle so that is years and years of breeding. You could lose a lot of bloodlines through it. You could lose your whole herd through it if it becomes a serious outbreak so it can be quite devastating. And, with the whole problem of movement and everything else, it just becomes a nightmare.”

According to him, some purchasers are “very hesitant” to purchase stock from him because his property is located in an area known to have bluetongue.

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