Govt sets out plan to tackle BTV-3 outbreak

The government has set out its plan for tackling an outbreak of BTV-3 this summer, as it works to deploy a vaccine.

cows in a field at sunset

The BTV-3 outbreak framework focuses on movement control of susceptible animals and their germinal products (semen, eggs, ova and embryos).

This will reduce the spread of the disease until a safe and effective vaccine is widely available.  

The government said it is working hard to facilitate safe access to a BTV-3 vaccine as soon as possible.

However, any vaccine must have the confidence of industry, consumers and trading partners.

Biosecurity minister Lord Douglas Miller said:  

“We are actively engaging with vaccine manufacturers and industry about access to a safe and effective BTV-3 vaccine that has undergone thorough due diligence.

“All disease control decisions will be kept under constant review to ensure they remain proportionate and as effective as possible in controlling the spread of the disease.”

This includes understanding the efficacy of any vaccine, and potential impacts on trade. 

Defra is monitoring vaccine data from EU countries and said it will continue to work with industry on any decisions on use of a deployable vaccine. 

READ MORE: Farmers warned to watch out for bluetongue signs during high-risk season

READ MORE: New BTV-3 vaccines authorised in Europe 

Likelihood increasing

Commenting on the new framework, chief veterinary officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said:  

“The Bluetongue Disease Control Framework sets out how we will work to minimise the impact of a potential outbreak of disease, using the latest scientific and veterinary advice to reduce disease transmission as much as possible.

“We know that the likelihood of bluetongue virus entering Great Britain is increasing and so I would urge farmers to remain vigilant and report any suspicions to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.”   

Bluetongue Disease Control Framework

Key points of the new framework include:

  • Upon detection of BTV-3 in England, 20km movement control zones will likely be established 
  • Movement control zones will be no bigger than is necessary to contain and slow disease spread. They will be kept under constant review and modified or withdrawn if no longer proportionate 
  • Movement of animals within zones, as well as moves to slaughter will be permitted
  • Free testing will be offered for animals moving from the highest risk counties to live elsewhere in Great Britain. Tests will become available once the risk level increases
  • Upon detection of BTV, if local spread is limited, control zones will be put in place alongside limited culling of infected animals
  • Keepers will be compensated the market value for any animals culled
  • Culling of infected animals will be limited. Once bluetongue is known to be circulating in biting midges in an area, culling is not an effective control measure. 

A surveillance programme is underway, which involves trapping midges across the country and working with the Met Office to monitor the likely spread of the virus based on temperature and wind patterns. 

The views of industry will be routinely sought, Defra said.

Very high probability

The latest APHA risk assessment suggested there is a very high probability of BTV-3 being introduced to the UK through infected biting midges being blown over from Northern Europe.

The first case of BTV-3 in Great Britain was detected last November.

Since then, 126 bluetongue cases have been confirmed in England across 73 premises and four counties.

The last case was confirmed on 8th March 2024. As of 23rd May, there are no live cases of bluetongue virus. 

All confirmed cases so far have been detected through active surveillance, with the animals likely infected in late autumn 2023. 

Due to their proximity to areas in northern Europe, where bluetongue is present, counties along the south and east coasts of England, including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, and East Sussex, are considered most likely to be impacted. 

Farmers should keep monitoring animals frequently, whilst making sure livestock and land is registered with APHA – with up-to-date contact details, so animals can be located in the event of an outbreak.

Bluetongue virus is a notifiable disease. Suspicion of bluetongue virus in animals must be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301 in England, on 03003 038 268 in Wales and to the local Field Services Office in Scotland.   

Read more livestock news.

© Farmers Guide 2024. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use Privacy Policy

Website Design by Unity Online

We have moved!

We’ve now moved to our new office in Stowmarket. If you wish to contact us please use our new address:

Unit 3-4 Boudicca Road, Suffolk Central Business Park, Stowmarket, IP14 1WF

Thank you,

The Farmers Guide Team