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NSA warns sheep farmers to remain vigilant amid first Bluetongue case in sheep

8th December 2023

Following the concerning news of a confirmed first case of Bluetongue virus in sheep announced by Defra yesterday (Thursday 7th December 2023)  the National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging sheep farmers living within the Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) in Kent to be on high alert for signs of the disease.

The confirmed case brings the total of animals identified with the virus, Bluetongue, serotype 3, (BTV-3 ) to nine. All cases were previously confirmed in cattle and all within the Kent area.

The last outbreak of bluetongue in the UK was in 2007, meaning the country had been officially free of the virus since 2011.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “It is disappointing, but nonetheless, not entirely surprising that BTV-3 has now been found in sheep. NSA understands the case was found in a mixed herd and identified through the routine surveillance testing currently being undertaken. BTV -3 is transmitted by biting midges which are most active between the months of April and November. There has been no direct animal to animal spread of the disease in this current outbreak.

“NSA continues to urge any sheep farmers within the TCZ  to of course comply with the movement restrictions in place, but also encourages those who might be traveling to the area or have stock heading off on winter keep to remain vigilant. The disease can spread rapidly amongst ruminants therefore swiftly notifying Defra is imperative for control.”

The latest case was confirmed on the fifth farm premises following a detailed epidemiological investigation by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Mr Stocker adds: “Due to current restrictions within the TCZ NSA is asking that during this time Defra ease its concerns around the technicalities of linked holdings and CPH numbers, and instead encourage anyone with concerns of Bluetongue amongst their animals to come forward as soon as they feel the need.

“As there is no vaccine available for BTV–3, farmers are encouraged to maintain exceptional levels of good biosecurity, including ensuring needles are changed between any routine vaccinations. Although current cases are in one county only, NSA encourages sheep farmers across the country to take a look at the official Defra guidance.”

Find further guidance on Bluetongue – 3 on the Defra website here.