Bluetongue Information – UPDATED August 2019
Letter from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – Please read!
In July and August of 2018, the number of cattle imported from mainland Europe was 36. In the month of July alone this year, that number stands at 135. This represents a huge increase from last year.
Bluetongue disease is caused by a virus and can affect all ruminant animals, including cattle, sheep, deer etc. Midges become infected by biting infected animals such as imported animals carrying the Bluetongue virus. These infected midges then spread the disease to other ruminant animals through biting. At this time of the year, midges are widespread in Ireland and Europe in very high numbers. Therefore, this is a particularly high-risk period for the entry of the disease and subsequent spread through the midge population. Once the disease enters the midge population it cannot be controlled.
DAFM is concerned that the small number of individuals importing cattle from mainland Europe at this time of the year are greatly increasing the risk of Bluetongue disease entering Ireland. If an outbreak of Bluetongue were to occur here our agricultural export markets would be severely impacted and the control measures required by the EU would have a significant impact on the day to day running of Irish livestock farms.
Please do not import ruminant animals from mainland Europe during this high-risk period when midges are active.
National Disease Control Centre
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
To download a copy of this letter from the Department, please CLICK HERE
Bluetongue is a viral disease of ruminant animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, deer) and camelids and is primarily transmitted by midges (Culicoides species). 90-95% of the midge species in Ireland are capable of transmitting bluetongue. In Ireland the period of midge activity and therefore potential spread of bluetongue in the event of its introduction is between March-April and November-December each year.
Situation in France
France has now reported over 50 cases of BTV-4 spread over a number of regions across France, with the majority being reported from Western France in regions adjacent Switzerland. The introduction of BTV-4 to mainland France is now believed to be imported animals from Corsica. Positive animals have been identified during bluetongue surveillance testing, and so far no animals (cattle, sheep nor goats) have shown any clinical signs. It is now unlikely BTV-4 will be eradicated, and as a result a BTV-4/BTV-8 restriction zone has been placed across the whole of mainland France.
The movement and trade of susceptible species from France is still permitted, provided all animals are correctly vaccinated against BTV-8 and BTV-4, or are shown to be naturally immune to both virus serotypes, prior to leaving the restriction zone, and the transport vehicle has been treated with a suitable insecticide. Livestock vehicles that transit France or indeed any other BT restricted zone must also be treated with an insecticide in order to protect the animals from attacks by vectors.
Situation in the UK
On 20th of October 2017, Bluetongue (BTV 8) positive animals were detected in the UK as part of routine post import surveillance. The animals had been recently imported from an assembly centre in an area of France where multiple cases of BTV 8 have been confirmed since September this year. As well as culling the positive animals, the four UK farms involved (two in England and two in Scotland) have been restricted by the authorities in the UK and surveillance to rule out any spread
Risk to Ireland
The importation of bluetongue infected animals represents the biggest risk of the disease entering Ireland.
Farmers, practitioners and other relevant stakeholders should be vigilant and ensure that they are fully aware of the presenting clinical signs of Bluetongue in both cattle and sheep, and that they report any suspicion of disease to their Veterinary Practitioner or Regional Veterinary Office (RVO) without delay. Further information on bluetongue and contact details for RVOs can be found at:
In addition anyone importing ruminant animals into Ireland should be vigilant and consider the following risk mitigation measures:
- Only import animals from reputable sources
- Do not buy or accept animals which have been recently imported without carefully checking their origin
- Seek additional assurances to ensure that animals are not infected with BT prior to departure, such as a recent negative PCR* test for BT carried out in an accredited laboratory
- Prior to importation contact your RVO for advice and to arrange for prompt testing post importation
- Post importation, keep any imported animals isolated and indoors until they have been tested for BT by staff from this Department and have returned a negative test result.
Refer to European Commission website for most up to date information: