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Bluetongue virus identified in two imported cattle, officials say

By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent

Animal disease bluetongue has been identified in two cattle imported from France, officials said.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Pirbright Institute identified the virus in the animals when they were brought to North Yorkshire from central France, where bluetongue continues to slowly spread.

The disease, transmitted by midge bites, does not affect people or food safety, but can reduce milk yield and cause infertility in livestock such as cows, goats, sheep and llamas - and in severe cases, is fatal for infected animals.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said action was being taken to ensure the risk of the virus spreading is reduced, with movement restrictions on the affected premises.

The two affected cattle have been culled.

Following the successful interception of the infected animals, the UK remains officially bluetongue-free, the risk of the disease remains low and exports are not affected, officials said.

Deputy chief veterinary officer for the UK, Graeme Cooke, said: "Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or food safety, but the disease impacts farming, causing reduced milk yield in cows and infertility in sheep.

"This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action but must highlight to farmers the risks which come with bringing animals from disease-affected areas into their herds."

He said farmers must remain vigilant and report any suspicions to the APHA, and work with importers to make sure vaccination requirements are complied with and animals responsibly sourced.

Farmers are also being reminded that the disease remains a threat, despite it coming to the end of the March to October season when midges are most active.

The movement restrictions will stay in place for at least a few weeks until testing rules out spread by local midges, Defra said.

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