Ireland continues to remain on high alert to the threat of bluetongue virus entering the country, the Department of Agriculture has said.

The disease is spread by infected biting midges which are present in Ireland and are generally most active between April and November.

“Consequently, Ireland will soon be entering the time of year when midge activity tends to increase.

“The disease could spread to Ireland through import of infected animals, infected foetuses or wind dispersal of infected midges from mainland Europe. The virus can also be transmitted via infected germinal products (semen, ova and embryos),” the Department advised.

Different types of Bluetongue are currently circulating in Europe.

Bluetongue serotype 3 (BTV-3), for which there is no vaccine, continues to pose a risk in northern Europe, where outbreaks have been reported over the last few months, while BTV-8 continues to circulate in France.

“It is critical that all livestock farmers maintain vigilance for any suspicions of this disease, and report any such suspicions to their local regional veterinary office (RVO) without delay,” the Department advised.


“Ireland is currently free of bluetongue virus, which is a viral disease of ruminants and camelids that continues to be of widespread concern across mainland Europe.

“Bluetongue does not affect human health or food safety. However, if bluetongue virus entered Ireland it would have serious trade implications for live animals and germinal products.”

The Department has said it is continuing to monitor the situation closely as the epidemiological situation evolves in Britain.

“Factors including whether bluetongue might be found to be circulating in midges in Britain in the spring, the development of a vaccine for BTV-3 and further bluetongue detection in susceptible ruminant species, will all have a significant impact on future disease risks and control,” it said.

Situation in Europe

The latest data from the Netherlands shows that almost 6,000 animals have tested positive for the disease. The Netherlands has reported that clinical signs in sheep are currently more severe than in cattle and goats.

“On some farms mortality rates are over 50%. Several cases have also been confirmed in alpacas,” the Department said.

Since October outbreaks have also been confirmed in Belgium (seven), Germany (32) and cases have been detected in Spain since August.


Due to the similarities/deformities that can result from Schmallenberg virus and Bluetongue virus in offspring/ aborted foetuses, the Department has advised that carcasses submitted for post-mortem to regional veterinary laboratories will be tested for bluetongue. Testing of such foetuses for both virus’ is free of charge.