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Bluetongue – Minister highlights importance of remaining vigilant

26 September, 2007

Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, Sinn Féin Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, today expressed her concern about the detection of Bluetongue in a fourth animal in Suffolk. She noted that this is not a confirmed outbreak unless Defra's further investigations demonstrate that disease is circulating.

She urged farmers here to remain vigilant for signs of the disease and reminded them about the comprehensive advice and information on Bluetongue that is available on the DARD website.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The bluetongue disease control strategy has been developed in consultation with our local industry through the bluetongue working group. My priority continues to be to keep Bluetongue out of the North. It is vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for signs of the disease and report any suspicions immediately to their local Divisional Veterinary Office."

She also drew attention to the Bluetongue disease control strategy that can be accessed on the DARD website at

The Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister said:

"The Bluetongue disease control strategy has been developed in consultation with our local industry through the Bluetongue Working Group. It recognises that different regions have different factors and priorities to consider, and provides for us to respond in a way specific to our circumstances here in the event that Bluetongue is confirmed either here or in Britain."

Bluetongue is a viral disease which can affect ruminants, for example sheep, cattle and goats. It is caused by a virus that is transmitted by midges. It can be spread by the movement of infected midges that go on to bite susceptible animals in a new area, or by movements of infected animals that are subsequently bitten by midges.

DARD continues to liaise closely with Defra, other Devolved Administrations and with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Dublin to monitor the Bluetongue situation.

DARD will continue to work in partnership with key stakeholders to mitigate the threat of bluetongue incursion.


  1. Information about the clinical signs of Bluetongue is outlined in the Bluetongue leaflet which is available on the DARD
  2. The Bluetongue virus is spread by midges which transfer the virus from animal to animal by biting them. The first detection of Bluetongue in Britain was reported on 22 September followed by three further cases this week.
  3. Bluetongue affects all ruminants, such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep. Clinical signs can vary by species - although symptoms are generally more severe in sheep, cattle can also show signs of disease (and can act as a reservoir for disease to keep infection circulating). Bluetongue is a disease of animals not humans. It is not a zoonosis and cannot infect humans.
  4. Clinical signs in sheep may include: fever; swelling of the head and neck; inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and eyelids; lameness; muscle degeneration and leaking of blood or serum from blood vessels into the surrounding tissues; haemorrhages in the skin and other tissues; respiratory signs such as froth in the lungs and an inability to swallow; and a high mortality rate. Sometimes, although it is rare with BTV8, there may be some discolouration and swelling of the tongue.
  5. Although Bluetongue usually causes no apparent illness in cattle or goats, cattle are displaying clinical signs during the current outbreak of BTV8 in Western Europe. These have included nasal discharge, swelling and ulceration of the mouth and swollen teats.
  6. Anyone who knows or suspects that any animal or carcase in his possession, under his charge or being examined or inspected by him is infected with Bluetongue is required under the Bluetongue Order (NI) 2003 to notify the Divisional Veterinary Office.
  7. Council Directive 2000/75/EC lays down the specific measures for control of Bluetongue. This is transposed in local legislation in the Bluetongue (NI) Order 2003.

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