UK farmers facing an 80% chance of a bluetongue outbreak

There is an 80% chance that UK farms will suffer a bluetongue outbreak before the end of the summer, a recent report from the UK government has warned.

The report published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that bluetongue could be introduced to the UK over the next couple of months.

The disease will most likely be spread by midges that are blown over from disease-outbreak regions in France, it says.

However, this predicted outbreak is highly dependent on the level of disease on the continent, the proximity of the disease to the UK and the weather conditions.

The infection spread is also highly dependent on the French authorities ability to control this disease over the winter and early spring.

Risk of a bluetongue outbreak:
  • Cool spring – 12-15%
  • Late summer – 33-60%
  • End of summer – 60-80%

The report also indicates that putting movement controls in place will have an impact, as it will slow down the spread of a disease outbreak early in the year.

However, using movement controls alone in an unusually hot year may not slow down the spread of bluetongue, as there would be greater midge activity.

Bluetongue has recently re-emerged in Central France, despite being undetected in mainland Europe for five years.

To date, France has reported 173 outbreaks which have mainly affected cattle, albeit with mild or no clinical signs, the report says.

The report also says that bluetongue affected around 6% of sheep flocks and 2% of cattle farms in Germany between 2006 to 2007.

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