Bluetongue threat for UK livestock

Researchers have warned that UK sheep and cattle are at risk from bluetongue.

Research published in the Royal Society's journal, Interface, concludes that if midges carrying the bluetongue virus (BTV) were to arrive in the UK it would be likely to spread amongst livestock.

The conclusion was the result of a collaboration between the Institute for Animal Health and the Universities of Cambridge and Liverpool and was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSCR) and Defra.

Researchers developed a new mathematical model for the transmission of BTV and applied it to existing data about midges and ruminants in the area in order to calculate the risk of infection for UK sheep and cattle.

Temperature emerged as a critical factor in the spread of the disease, as it affects several aspects of the transmission process. The analysis suggests that the risk of spreading BTV is greatest when the temperature is between 15 and 25°C- the most common range of temperature for the UK at this time of year.

"This prediction is all the more apposite given the reports last week of fresh cases of bluetongue near the coast of Belgium, and in Germany," said a spokesperson.