Bluetongue virus: the facts

How is bluetongue spread?It is an insect-borne viral disease.Which species are vulnerable?Cattle, sheep, camelids, goats and deer.Why is it called bluetongue?The virus causes severe inflamation of the face and mouth causing the tongue to appear blue or distressed.

How is bluetongue spread?

It is an insect-borne viral disease.

Which species are vulnerable?

Cattle, sheep, camelids, goats and deer.

Why is it called bluetongue?

The virus causes severe inflamation of the face and mouth causing the tongue to appear blue or distressed.

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Can we catch it?

Bluetongue is a disease of ruminants not man.

When was it discovered?

It was identified in South Africa more than 15 years ago. It has spread across North Africa, including Morocco, since 2000, reaching Spain and Portugal in 2004.

Are there different types of bluetongue?

There are many BTV (bluetongue virus). The Suffolk case is BTV 8 - the same as found in 4,000 cases in northern Europe - France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

Can vaccination help?

A vaccine for BTV 8 may be available by summer 2008. However, the vaccine is type specific, so one used to control BTV 4 in Spain cannot protect against BTV 1.

How do animals become infected?

They must be bitten by a midge carrying the virus. It does not spread from animal to animal.

What is the incubation period?

The EU is working on a 60-day incubation.

What is the most likely reason for spread?

Air-borne. Insects can move rapidly in air currents of up to 9,000ft above the ground and up to 72km per hour, covering almost 400km.

Have there been other outbreaks?

Widspread outbreaks have been identified in Greece, Italy, Corsica and the Spanish Balearic Islands. Since August 2006, there have been about 4,000 cases in Germany, Belgium, France, Holland and Luxembourg. It has been confirmed in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

Is one type of midge responsible?

It is transmitted by a small number of species of biting midges of the genus culicoides.

What about treatments?

It could be transferred when cattle or sheep are vaccinated, using unclean needles.

When it is most likely to appear.

It is most commonly seen in the late summer and autumn when temperatures are warmer.

What about compensation?

It is a notifiable disease and compensation is payable for slaughtered animals under the 1981 Animal Health Act.

Signs in sheep

Eye and nasal discharges; Drooling as a result of ulcerations in the mouth; High temperature; Swelling of the mouth, head and neck; Lameness;

Inflammation at the junction of the skin and the horn of the foot - the coronary band; Respiratory problems

Signs in cattle include

Nasal discharge; Swelling of the head and neck;

Conjunctivitis (runny eyes); Swelling in, and ulceration of, the mouth; Swollen teats; Tiredness; A laboratory test is needed to confirm the disease.

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