The UK’s chief veterinary officer has urged sheep farmers to remain vigilant for the virus after the disease was picked up and dealt with in a consignment of four sheep imported from France.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the disease as part of routine post-import testing when the sheep were brought to Lancashire.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the four sheep have been humanely culled.
Bluetongue does not affect people or food safety, but it can reduce milk yield and affected animals and, in the most severe cases, can be fatal.
The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cattle, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas.
Farmers are being warned to remain vigilant, report any suspicions to APHA and to work closely with their importers to make sure effective vaccination needs are complied with.
Chief veterinary officer for the UK, Christine Middlemiss, said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease can have a serious impact on farming productivity by causing sheep infertility. This is particularly important at this time of year.
“This detection is another example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action but must highlight to farmers the risks that come with bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds. It is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the season when midges are active.”
The UK Government has worked closely with a number of groups to raise awareness of the threat of bluetongue through the Joint campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB).