In 2016 we saw the re-emergence of BTV-8 in France, the virus being the same as the one involved in the 2008-2009 outbreak of Bluetongue. France continued to see new cases throughout 2016 and into 2017, reporting 406 new cases in December 2016, and 154 in January 2017. These cases have been detected mainly as a result of pre-movement testing, however they highlight the fact that disease is widespread in France and as we move into Spring and temperatures rise, midge activity will increase as will the ability of the virus to replicate, further increasing the risk of disease transmission.
The assessment of risk to the UK is largely based on the disease situation in France, and meteorological predictions, which provide some indication of the likelihood of infected midges (which can travel up to 250km over water) being able to get to the UK shores. Whilst weather conditions and low average daily temperatures mean APHA (The Animal and Plant Health Agency) currently predict the risk of a disease incursion into the UK as ‘low’, this is likely to change as we move into Spring. The movement restriction zones in France continue to extend and now reach the North coast, as can be seen from the solid orange areas on the map below published on the French ministry website on the 24th February.
Figure 1 - Map showing confirmed BTV-8 outbreaks and restriction zones in France as of 24th February 2017
What is Bluetongue?
At this stage it is worth recapping on Bluetongue itself. Bluetongue is a notifiable disease of ruminants and as already noted, the main route of transmission is via the Culicoides biting midge, which is most active between May and October.
Bluetongue can cause reproductive and production losses (milk drop, reduced meat and wool production) but the greatest impact is likely to come from the movement restrictions put in place when Bluetongue is identified. Zones of 150km are immediately put in place around infected premises, which can have a significant impact on the ability to move and trade animals. The EU Bluetongue directive is in place to ensure trade is able to continue in the event of an outbreak, and vaccination plays a key role in the strategy to allow animal movements and free trade to continue.
How to protect against Bluetongue
Protection against Bluetongue is through keeping susceptible animals away from the vector (the midge) and vaccination. Pour-on insecticides are helpful in reducing the risk but vaccination is the only sure way to protect animals against infection. There have been no restrictions on use of Bluetongue vaccine since 2012 meaning farmers can choose to vaccinate at any time. Whilst disease did not enter the UK in 2016, the situation in France tells us that the risk remains for 2017. Vaccinating in Spring will ensure animals are protected ahead of the active midge season, and vaccinating pre-turnout will improve convenience, particularly for beef farmers. It’s important to remember that vaccination takes just over 6 weeks from starting the 2 dose vaccine course to the animal being protected, so it pays to start having active discussions with your vet now about the most appropriate approach to Bluetongue prevention on your farm in 2017.
Zulvac® 8 Ovis is specifically licensed against BTV-8 in sheep, and Zulvac® 8 Bovis against BTV-8 in cattle. Further information regarding Bluetongue and the Zulvac 8 vaccines can be found by clicking the button below:
Additional information on how to spot and report Bluetongue can be found here and further reading on monitoring for major, notifiable or new and emerging animal disease outbreaks can be found on the government website.
For further information, please see the product SPC, or contact your veterinary surgeon, SQP or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. www.zoetis.co.uk . Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible).