Bluetongue: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot bluetongue, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.

Bluetongue affects:

  • sheep
  • other ruminants such as cows and goats
  • camelids such as llamas

Humans aren’t affected.

The last outbreak in Great Britain was in 2007.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease. That means if you suspect it you must tell the Animal and Plant and Health Agency immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot bluetongue

In sheep

In sheep the main signs of bluetongue are:

  • ulcers in the mouth
  • discharge of mucus and drooling from mouth and nose
  • swelling of the mouth, head and neck and the coronary band (where the skin of the leg meets the horn of the foot)

Other clinical signs include:

  • red skin as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface
  • fever
  • lameness
  • breathing problems

In cattle

Cattle are the main carriers of bluetongue. Infected cattle generally do not show any signs of the disease, but occasionally signs can include:

  • swelling and ulcers in the mouth
  • nasal discharge
  • red skin and eyes as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface
  • swollen teats
  • tiredness

Other animals rarely show signs of the disease.

How bluetongue is spread

Bluetongue is carried and spread by midges.

Preventing and controlling bluetongue

You can help to prevent the disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.

Defra has issued a general licence for farmers to vaccinate their animals in areas which are outside a restricted zone for bluetongue.

If you report suspicion of bluetongue, APHA vets will investigate.

If bluetongue is confirmed the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases and the bluetongue control strategy.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Leaflet about clinical signs of bluetongue

Bluetongue: guidance for livestock keepers

Legislation relating to bluetongue

The main EU legislation on bluetongue is Directive 2007/3154

The main domestic legislation is the Bluetongue Regulations 2008