New Strain of Animal Virus Poses Threat to UK Livestock

New Strain of Animal Virus Poses Threat to UK Livestock

Farmers are being warned about a new strain of bluetongue virus, a disease affecting cattle and sheep spread by midges. This strain, first detected in the UK last November, has a "very high probability" of spreading further, according to the government.

While harmless to humans and food safety, bluetongue can cause serious illness in livestock, including fever, reduced milk production, and even death. The new strain, BTV-3, likely arrived via midges blown in from northern Europe. Over 120 cases have already been confirmed in several counties.

Experts warn there's a high risk of BTV-3 continuing to spread throughout the year. Additionally, another strain, BTV-8, could potentially be carried in by midges from France.

The government is urging vigilance from farmers and has pledged free testing in high-risk areas once transmission risk increases. Efforts are also underway to develop a vaccine for BTV-3 suitable for use in the UK. Currently, no such vaccine exists in the country, although emergency use vaccines have been approved elsewhere.

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