Safeguarding Ireland’s Livestock: Bluetongue Tracing Measures Implemented for Cattle from GB

Bluetongue Tracing Measures Implemented for Cattle from GB
Bluetongue Tracing Measures Implemented for Cattle from GB

Safeguarding Ireland’s Livestock: Bluetongue Tracing Measures Implemented for Cattle from GB

Efforts to shield Ireland’s livestock from the threat of the bluetongue virus (BTV) have taken precedence as regional veterinary offices (RVOs) have initiated contact with farmers who imported cattle from Great Britain (GB) since October. This meticulous tracing endeavor aims to fortify defenses against the insidious bluetongue virus.

Suspension of ruminant animal movements from Great Britain to the Irish island has been swiftly enacted following the confirmation of a BTV-3 case in a cow situated in Kent, England, on November 10.

The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine has been actively engaged in tracing all cattle and sheep movements from Great Britain into Ireland since October 1. To ensure thorough vigilance, relevant RVOs will be liaising with livestock owners who have imported cattle or sheep from Great Britain and organizing comprehensive surveillance testing.

Presently, Ireland remains uncontaminated by the bluetongue virus, a viral ailment posing substantial concern across mainland Europe for ruminants and camelids. Although it doesn’t pose a risk to human health or food safety, the potential infiltration of the virus into Ireland could lead to severe trade implications for live animals and germinal products, according to the department.

Transmission of the bluetongue virus primarily occurs through infected midges, prevalent in Ireland, especially from April to November. Potential modes of transmission include the importation of infected animals or wind-borne dispersal of infected midges from mainland Europe. The virus can also propagate through infected germinal products such as semen, ova, and embryos.

Regrettably, there’s currently no EU-approved vaccine specific to bluetongue serotype 3, and the efficacy of vaccines against other serotypes remains uncertain.

Notably, various bluetongue serotypes are currently in circulation across Europe, each triggering distinct outbreaks:

  • September witnessed the Netherlands facing cases of BTV-3, rapidly spreading across the country with higher severity in sheep than in cattle and goats, leading to alarming mortality rates on some farms.
  • In October, Belgium and Germany confirmed outbreaks of BTV-3 in sheep near their borders with the Netherlands.
  • By November, Spain reported 41 outbreaks of BTV-4 in cattle and sheep in the northern and central regions.

The department advocates preventive measures to impede bluetongue’s entry into Ireland, advising importers to explore alternatives like artificial insemination for genetic or breed enhancements instead of importing susceptible animals from mainland Europe.

Stringent protocols for importing animals include sourcing from reputable suppliers, ensuring vaccination against bluetongue for animals from specific countries, verifying virus-free status through pre-export PCR tests, immediate isolation upon arrival, and prompt veterinary assessment within five days of arrival.

These meticulous measures underscore Ireland’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding its livestock against the looming threat of bluetongue, emphasizing proactive strategies to prevent and contain potential outbreaks.


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