With current warmer weather conditions, there will be an increased risk that bluetongue will be reintroduced to the UK, an expert in the relationship between insects and animals has said.

Research fellow in veterinary entomology at the Pirbright Institute Chris Sanders said the recent temperature increase has a significant bearing on the risk that the BTV-3 strain of bluetongue poses to UK livestock.

“During this period of warmer weather and with disease reported on the continent, we have to consider that the risk of BTV-3 being reintroduced to the UK will increase,” he said.

Sanders added that there are currently no live cases of bluetongue in the UK and no evidence that the virus is circulating.

“With the warmer temperatures we’ve recently seen, we know that the activity of biting midges that spread the virus has increased.

“The development of BTV in midges also depends on the temperature. It is now warm enough that if a midge were to come into contact with BTV-3, local virus transmission between midges and ruminants in the UK would now be possible,” he said.


Ruminant Health and Welfare - a body established in the UK to tackle diseases in ruminants - said farmers need to be aware of the bluetongue risk for susceptible animals, apply caution and use evidence-based tactics to mitigate against the virus.

There is currently no BTV-3 vaccine authorised or approved for use in Ireland or the UK.

Free testing is now available for UK farmers.

The first bluetongue case in England resulted in a ban on cattle, sheep and other ruminants moving to the island of Ireland last year.

No case of BTV-3 has been confirmed on the island of Ireland to date.

The risk of the disease spreading lowered during cooler winter months, but has risen again in recent summer months in line with midge activity.