Enzootic bovine leukosis: how to spot and report the disease

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

Enzootic bovine leukosis affects cattle.

It doesn’t affect humans.

It was last present in Great Britain in 1996.

Enzootic bovine leukosis is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot enzootic bovine leukosis

Most infected cattle will show no sign of the disease, but clinical signs can include:

  • tumours in many parts of the body, which can appear as bumps in the skin
  • problems digesting food and loss of appetite and weight
  • weakness, fever and abnormal breathing
  • fall in milk production
  • bulging eyes
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • partial paralysis of the hind legs

Internal tumours may only become apparent once cattle have been killed and butchered, so abattoir workers should look out for them.

If tumours are spotted on a carcass, the abattoir must keep the carcass on site and report it to the APHA so it can be examined.

How enzootic bovine leukosis is spread

The disease can be spread:

  • from cows to baby calves during pregnancy or when suckling
  • between animals in close contact
  • through infected blood on surgical equipment and gloves

Preventing and controlling enzootic bovine leukosis

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

If you report suspicion of enzootic bovine leukosis APHA vets will investigate.

If the disease is confirmed the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation relating to enzootic bovine leukosis

The Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (England) Order 2000 is the main law on the disease.

It implements measures for the eradication of leukosis in EU Council Directive 77/391

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 18 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. First published.