Bluetongue Disease

Blue tongue virus affects sheep, other ruminants such as cows and goats, and camelids such as llamas. Midges carry the bluetongue virus, and the disease spreads when infected midges bite an animal affected by the disease. The midge season is normally March to September.

Humans are not affected nor are animal products or meat. The last outbreak in the UK was in 2007. However we must all remain vigilant. The bluetongue virus (BTV-8) has been detected in cattle in northern France in May 2017. There is a high risk of bluetongue type 8 spreading into the UK if infected midges are carried by the wind from France to the South-East of England. If you import susceptible animals on to the Isle of Man then you should be vigilant that they might be carrying the disease.

Common clinical signs of Bluetongue in both sheep and cattle:

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

Cattle are the main carriers of bluetongue and infected cattle often do not show any signs of the disease. Sheep are more severely affected and those surviving can show:

  • Lameness;
  • Bleeding into or under the skin;
  • Inflammation and soreness at the junction of the skin and the horn of the foot;
  • Respiratory problems - difficulty with breathing and nasal discharge.

A 'blue' tongue is rarely a sign of infection!

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and if you suspect if you must tell DEFA immediately.

For the latest DEFRA news releases please see the DEFRA Bluetongue website pages.

For further information please contact:

Animal Health Team – Regulation Directorate

Telephone:+44 1624 685844

Email:Send Email

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