Bluetongue disease detected in UK
( BBC ) - The first-ever case of Bluetongue disease in Britain has been found in a cow near Ipswich, Suffolk.
Defra officials confirmed discovery of the insect-borne virus, which is usually found around the Mediterranean.
All ruminants, which include cattle, sheep, goats and deer, can be infected, but the viral infection is not thought to pose a risk to human health.
Since July there have been nearly 3,000 cases in Northern Europe, fuelling fears of its arrival in the UK.
It is transmitted by the Culicoides imicola midge. It is passed from animal to midge, and from midge to animal - it is not transmitted from animal to animal.
The virus has long blighted Africa, but in recent years has begun to spread northwards into Europe as the range of the biting insects has increased.
Some scientists believe that climate change could be behind its spread, as warmer temperatures have seen the midges gradually move north.
Farming under fire
Animals with the disease experience discomfort, with flu-like symptoms, swelling and haemorrhaging in and around the mouth and nose. They can also go lame and have difficulty eating properly.
"The premises where bluetongue has been found is under restrictions. One infected animal will be culled and epidemiological investigations are being carried out to assess the situation," said the farming ministry Defra in a statement.
The news came as the farming industry has struggled with movement and export restrictions imposed due to the foot-and-mouth outbreaks in Surrey. On Saturday cattle on a fourth farm were slaughtered and the protection zone was extended after a further case was confirmed.
Both the bluetongue infection, and efforts to contain it, were different from foot-and-mouth, the Defra statement said.
No vaccine is available currently for the strain of the disease that has hit Northern Europe, where export and animal movement bans have been imposed following outbreaks.
Once infected, up to 70% of a flock of sheep can die from the virus. While infected animals can recover - and become immune - productivity is reduced with milk yields in dairy herds dropping by about 40%.