Bluetongue – essential information

16 July 2024

A photo of three cows on a field.

Here you'll find the latest information and advice on the bluetongue situation in the UK, including updates on temporary control zones and cattle movements.

What's new on this page?

Bluetongue is a notifiable animal disease. Suspected cases must be reported immediately. Failure to do so is an offence:

Use this link for reporting contact details for England, Wales and Scotland.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease affecting sheep, cattle and other ruminants.

Bluetongue (BTV) is a viral disease spread by biting midges, which affects all ruminants (eg. sheep, cattle, goats and deer) and camelids (such as llama and alpaca).

Symptoms vary across ruminants, but include fever, lesions, redness of the mouth, eyes, nose, reddening of the skin above the hoof, excessive salivation and nasal discharge. However, animals may show little or no clinical signs.

It does not affect humans or food safety; meat and milk from infected animals are also safe to eat and drink.

RH&W (Ruminant Health and Welfare) provides dedicated information on bluetongue. Visit: RH&W | Bluetongue Virus

AHDB's latest webinar provided timely and accurate updates on the current bluetongue situation, including technical information from expert speakers.

Reporting suspected cases

Bluetongue is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately. Failure to do so is an offence:

For signs and symptoms of bluetongue, visit:  GOV.UK | Bluetongue: how to spot and report the disease

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Latest news

Government updates guidance on registering livestock in England

10 July 2024: The government is highlighting the importance of registering where livestock is kept to help investigation and control of disease outbreaks. 

Updated guidance has been issued on GOV.UK encouraging all livestock keepers (including pet owners) to follow steps to ensure land and livestock locations are registered correctly. 

The guidance includes:

  • Applying for a CPH (county parish holding) number via the RPA (Rural Payments Agency).
  • Information on applying for a TLA (temporary land associations) or temporary CPH (tCPH).
  • Registering with APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) to get a flock or herd mark.
  • Keeping registrations up to date.
  • Contact information for the RPA and APHA

It is important to ensure all temporary grazing and buildings are correctly associated with the main holding.

For more information, visit: GOV.UK | Get a temporary land association (TLA) or temporary county parish holding (tCPH) number

Bluetongue guidance for shows and events in England in 2024

21 June 2024: The government has published guidance for keepers moving bluetongue susceptible animals to shows and events, and show organisers. The guidance covers:

  • Shows taking place in the absence of bluetongue control zones
  • Shows due to take place inside bluetongue zones
  • Shows outside bluetongue zones
  • Bluetongue zones declared after shows have started
  • Bluetongue suspicion or confirmation at the show

Read the full guidance at: GOV.UK | Bluetongue guidance for shows and events in England in 2024

Free bluetongue testing now available in 5 high-risk counties

6 June 2024: Livestock keepers in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex can apply for free bluetongue testing for susceptible animals if they are to be moved to live out of the high-risk counties listed above.

Tests are also free if susceptible animals will be sold at a market held within any of the high-risk counties where it is anticipated that there will be buyers from outside those high-risk counties. 

Defra sets out bluetongue control framework

23 May 2024: The NFU has welcomed Defra’s control plan, helping to bring clarity for members. We are urging Defra, vaccine manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and the livestock and dairy sectors work together to bring a licenced vaccine to market to help minimise the impact of this disease. 

See: GOV.UK | Bluetongue disease control framework set out

Risk assessment status set to “very high”

7 May 2024: APHA confirmed a very high probability of BTV-3 spreading across ruminants in Great Britain.

In its updated risk assessment, the government body warned that the virus could be more widely spread as infected biting midges are blown over from northern Europe.

See: GOV.UK | Bluetongue virus risk set out for the year ahead

Netherlands authorise BTV-3 vaccines

26 April 2024: A new vaccine for bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) was approved for use in the Netherlands.

This vaccine has not yet been authorised for use in the UK. 

New online movement licensing service

26 April 2024: Defra and APHA have launched a new online movement licensing service which will allow APHA to process a higher quantity of applications.

The service also allows livestock keepers to upload supporting documentation, track the status of applications and download licences.

Visit: GOV.UK | Apply for an exemption from animal disease movement restrictions. This service replaces the EXD100 form. 

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Current situation in the UK

Bluetongue has been identified in ruminants in the East of England – as of May 2024, there were 126 confirmed cases on 73 premises. For the most up to date number of cases, visit: GOV.UK | Bluetongue information and guidance – cases and control zones

As the risk of bluetongue is increased during periods of warm weather, the risk status has been set to “very high”.

BTV-3

A new strain, BTV-3, was first reported in September 2023 in the Netherlands. Cases have since been reported in Belgium and Germany. The first case was confirmed in the UK on 10 November 2023.

Vaccines

The emergency use of a new vaccine for BTV-3 has been approved in the Netherlands and in Belgium, but is not yet authorised in the UK.

There is also a vaccine for other strains of BTV, including BTV-8, 2 and 4, which is used in France for export purposes.

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Temporary control zones

There are currently no bluetongue temporary control zones (TCZs) in operation. Previous 10km TCZs in Norfolk and Kent have been lifted (as of 19 February 2024) .

However, surveillance testing will continue. 

Farms with high risk animals, or with animals waiting to be tested, remain under restriction. If this reflects your situation, APHA will be in contact with you to arrange next steps.

A list of all cases and control zones is available at: GOV.UK | Notifiable animal disease cases and control zones

A flow chart has been produced by the Ruminant Health and Welfare Group which can help farmers previously in TCZs to determine next steps for their livestock: RHWG | Flow chart for farmers  

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Specific movement licences

You can apply for a specific movement licence at: GOV.UK | Bluetongue: apply for a specific movement licence

For help completing an application, or if you are unable to access the service and need to request an EXD100 form, contact APHA:  

Phone: 03000 200 301
Email: [email protected] 

Each movement licence is subject to its own risk assessment, meaning it can take up to five days for a licence to be granted. 

Temporary land association and temporary county parish holding

It is important that the correct TLA and tCPH is in place for a quick turnaround. See: BTV – preparing for bluetongue on farm | Temporary land associations

Licences are available for high risk animals that remain under restriction, and a licence will be available permitting the movement of animals on and off holdings that have had negative results.

Specific movement licences are also available to move positive animals that are under restriction but need to move for urgent welfare reasons, or to move animals under restriction to go direct to a designated slaughterhouse.

A list of abattoirs that can slaughter animals from within a TCZ can be found at: GOV.UK | Abattoirs that can slaughter animals from a TCZ.

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High risk animals

High risk animals – positive pregnant animals, positive entire males and animals waiting to be tested for bluetongue – that are currently within the TCZs will be placed under restriction at the same time as the TCZs are lifted.

Positive pregnant animals present a disease risk as they can give birth to infected offspring, and entire males can infect females either through natural service or artificial insemination.

Presently, any female cattle aged over 12 months or 6 months for sheep will be assumed to be pregnant unless the keeper's vet attests that they are not. If the animal is pregnant, the offspring of the positive female will be tested as soon as welfare considerations allow. 

There is currently no evidence that there is circulating virus. Surveillance is ongoing.

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Useful webinars

NFU member webinars

In May, NFU President Tom Bradshaw chaired a webinar with the Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss on the risks of a bluetongue spread as we head into warmer weather and Defra’s policy going forward.

CVO Christine Middlemiss also hosted a bluetongue update in December 2023. 

NFU East Regional Director Dr Zoe Leach also hosted a Q&A on bluetongue.

AHDB webinars

AHDB is running a series of technical webinars which offer vet practitioners and other stakeholders valuable technical information about BTV-3. 

Watch: Bluetongue Virus - Preparing for the High Risk Period | AHDB Webinar

Details of upcoming webinars can be found at AHDB | Bluetongue virus technical webinars.

You can watch the previous webinars, which have covered topics such as the symptoms of BTV, the midge lifecycle and the impact of temperature on BTV transmission, on the AHDB YouTube channel

APHA webinars

APHA hosted a Plan, Prevent and Protect webinar aimed at organisers of agricultural shows and other events in England where cattle, sheep, pigs, camelids, poultry, other captive birds and other livestock will be present. 

The webinar covered what organisers should consider and prepare for and what actions must be taken to protect the health of animals. 

Although bluetongue is not the main topic of the webinar, there is a lengthy talk from Chloe Etherton, Defra Livestock Disease policy adviser, on the subject beginning at 24:45

The NFU also hosted a webinar on 20 December where members were able to hear from NFU livestock and animal health experts on what they need to know about the disease and how to spot signs of it.

Members can watch the recording of the webinar at: NFUOnline | The latest situation with bluetongue

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Help and support

If you are in need of help or support in the aftermath of a bluetongue outbreak on farm, there are a number of farming organisations that can help. 

This page was first published on 27 November 2023. It was updated on 16 July 2024.


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