The Bluetongue virus that affected parts of France in 2007 is more likely to hit other parts of Europe and the United Kingdom this summer, warns Animal and Plant Health Agency officials.
Health authorities have advised the livestock owners to be vigilant for the virus and predict that there would be 80% chance for its spread due to midges.
‘Bluetongue virus, a potentially fatal disease in sheep and cattle, has an 80% chance to hit England in 2016.’
Bluetongue virus originated in the Sub-Saharan Africa and affects animals predominately. It causes swelling in animals that restricts the flow of blood to the tongue, leaving it blue. Other symptoms include, fever, respiratory problems, painful hooves, reproductive problems like miscarriages and birth defects.
The virus spreads through midges and it can survive in warmer temperatures. Therefore, health experts have advised animal owners to monitor their livestock closely and also vaccinate them against the disease. Previous outbreaks in France have been successfully overcome by vaccinating the animals.
There is a rapid, accurate test and an effective vaccine for the strain of bluetongue virus currently in France. British farmers will have to make a commercial decision on whether to vaccinate their livestock.
Professor John Blackwell, from the British Veterinary Association, said, "We strongly encourage all farmers to closely monitor their stock for bluetongue symptoms - particularly sheep which are most susceptible to the disease - including eye and nasal discharge, drooling, swelling around the head or mouth, lethargy and lameness."