The number of bluetongue outbreaks in cattle and sheep in the Netherlands continues to climb, with over 3,900 cases recorded to date.

Bluetongue cases have also been identified in Belgium and Germany over October, with 300 cases having previously been detected in France in September.

The virus was first identified in the Netherlands in early September and the disease has since spread.

Up until then, the Netherlands had recorded no cases since 2009 and was granted bluetongue-free status in 2012.

Animals, particularly sheep, infected with bluetongue show the symptoms of fever, salivation, swelling in the head and inflammation of the coronary margin above hooves.

The disease can be fatal to animals, but cannot transfer across to humans.

Serotype 3 has been detected in current Dutch outbreaks and no vaccine for this strain of the disease is currently available on EU markets.

‘Medium’ risk of entering Britain

The disease has been assessed by the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture as posing a “medium” risk of entering the UK from either France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Due to restrictions and controls on the movement of animals, the risk was deemed chiefly to be posed by the midge vector of the disease making its way to Britain.

Bites from infected midges are the virus’s main route.

Live cattle and sheep exports from Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to Britain are currently banned.