Livestock keepers are urged to talk to their vets about vaccinating animals.
There is a high risk of an outbreak of Bluetongue (BTV-8) towards the end of the summer as a result of infected midges being blown across the English Channel from France, where the disease is present. The disease affects all ruminants, but particularly cattle and sheep. It poses no threat to human health and does not affect meat, milk or other animal products.
Government Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Simon Hall, said:
It’s fantastic news that the vaccine is now available. This is the perfect time to talk to your vet as the vaccine is the only effective tool to prevent illness.
I am urging our livestock farmers to keep an eye out for any signs of the disease and report any suspicions to their vet and the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately, so we can work together to reduce the possible spread of Bluetongue this summer.
The vaccination has to be given by injection twice (three weeks apart) in cattle and sheep, so it can take up to six weeks for the animal to be fully immune.
Restriction zones are already in place in France, to control the spread of the disease. If BTV was found in Great Britain, similar measures such as movement restrictions would be put in place in line with the disease control strategies.
Farmers and vets who suspect bluetongue must report it immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301.