Farmers will from this week be able to source bluetongue vaccine from their vet, Defra has announced.
Bluetongue (BTV-8) vaccines for sheep and cattle are now available across Britain, ahead of what experts predict is the likely arrival of the disease this summer.
Two companies, Zoetis and MSD, have announced that they are making a vaccine available in the UK.
Zoetis’s Zulvac 8 Bovis and Ovis vaccines are available for use in vet practices from this week, with MSD Animal Health set to deliver its Bluevac BTV8, a single vaccine for both sheep and cattle, in the coming days.
Both suppliers are confident there is enough vaccine to meet demand so that all farmers who wish to are able to vaccinate their animals now in GB.
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.
Defra has warned there is a high risk of an outbreak of Bluetongue towards the end of the summer as a result of infected midges being blown across the English Channel from France, where the disease has been present since last year.
The disease affects all ruminants, but particularly cattle and sheep, although Defra stressed it poses no threat to human health and does not affect meat, milk or other animal products.
Defra’s 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 Government said it robust disease surveillance procedures in place and was working closely with the Devolved Administrations and the livestock industry.
Restriction zones are already in place in France, to control the spread of the disease. If BTV was found in GB, 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.
The Joint campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB) provides information on Bluetongue for farmers, vets, animal health advisers and wider industry across the UK.
This includes what Bluetongue is, the current situation and veterinary advice and information about the vaccine.
JAB is currently running a series of Bluetongue awareness events around the UK. Future events are happening on: