Bluetongue was ’detected and dealt with’ in imported cattle brought into North Yorkshire.
UK deputy chief veterinary officer Graeme Cooke has urged farmers to remain vigilant for bluetongue virus after the disease was picked up in two cattle imported from France.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Insitute identified the disease in animals brought to North Yorkshire from Central France.
Movement restrictions have been put in place at the affected premises and the cattle were isolated and humanely culled.
The UK remains officially bluetongue-free.
Farmers were also reminded there were strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue and animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.
Mr Cooke said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease impacts farming, causing reduced milk yield in cows and infertility in sheep.
“This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action but must highlight to farmers the risks which come with bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds. Regulations and systems are in place for the benefit of our UK livestock industry.
“It is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the season when midges are active.
“Farmers must remain vigilant and report any suspicions to APHA. Farmers should work with their importer to make sure effective vaccination needs are complied with, source animals responsibly and consider the health status of their own herd if they are not protected
“Movement restrictions will remain in place on the premises for at least several weeks until testing rules out spread via local midges.”
Farmers have the option to send animals without fully compliant paperwork back to France or to cull them as a measure to reduce the risk of disease spreading to susceptible UK livestock.
NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle said: “The NFU is aware that a number of cattle have been imported from France onto a farm in England.
“The UK’s post-import surveillance testing identified that some of these animals were infected with bluetongue (BTV8) and posed a risk to other susceptible animals. These high-risk cattle have been humanely culled, demonstrating that our surveillance system is robust and successful in identifying these animals.
“Action has been taken to ensure there is no onward spread of disease, including the culling of animals, movement restrictions at the affected premises and targeted surveillance of cattle and midges.
"This is a timely reminder to farmers to be vigilant about the threat posed by Bluetongue. It is important that farmers and traders consider carefully the risks associated with importing animals and report any disease suspicions to their vet or APHA.”
NFU Scotland’s animal health and welfare policy manager, Penny Middleton said the discovery was a real concern for Scottish livestock keepers and underlined the continued need for vigilance, responsible sourcing and appropriate support and resources being directed to our veterinary surveillance system to allow them to monitor and stamp out the disease as soon as possible.
“While the bluetongue virus has been spreading in French livestock for some time, it was always unlikely that midge borne infection would reach Scotland this year and that importation continues to present the greatest risk.
“Surveillance systems south of the Border have proven robust but the reality is that infected animals have arrived in Yorkshire," she said.
“We urge all Scottish livestock keepers to source stock responsible, avoiding bluetongue areas if possible and remind themselves of both the symptoms and veterinary advice on the disease.
“Bluetongue is notifiable so any suspected cases must be reported immediately to the local Animal Plant Health Office.”
UFU deputy president, David Brown said it was reassuring the disease had been detected quickly and swift action was taken but it was a reminder for livestock keepers of the importance of responsibly sourcing animals and to be fully aware of potential risks.
“Farmers should also be aware that they will not be eligible for compensation if an animal they import is found to have Bluetongue," he said.
“Northern Ireland has been Bluetongue free for a number of years and all cattle farmers want to keep it that way.
“Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and farmers should report any concerns immediately to DAERA,” said Mr Brown.