Sheep pox and goat pox: how to spot and report these diseases

How to spot sheep pox and goat pox, what to do if you suspect them and how to prevent them spreading.

Applies to England and Wales

Sheep pox virus and goat pox virus affect sheep and goats.

Cattle are not affected by sheep pox or goat pox. For cattle, see lumpy skin disease.

Sheep pox and goat pox can cause severe illness and death in sheep and goats. Outbreaks can cause trade and movement restrictions.

Sheep pox and goat pox do not affect people or food safety.

Sheep pox and goat pox in Europe

Sheep pox and goat pox have not been present in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) since the 1800s.

Outbreaks of these diseases have been reported in Spain since September 2022. See the animal disease outbreak assessments 2022 for more information.

If you import or export

If you import or export live sheep or goats, their germinal products (semen, ova and embryos), untreated wool, skins or hides into or out of Great Britain, check for issues or changes you need to be aware of.

How to spot sheep pox and goat pox

Signs of these diseases include:

  • fever
  • one or more red spots or blisters on the skin, nose, mouth or body
  • swollen lymph nodes, for example on the neck
  • depression
  • reluctance to eat
  • lesions (skin damage) on the tongue
  • discharge from the nose and eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • breathing difficulties
  • death

Some infected animals may not show any signs of disease.

How to report sheep pox or goat pox

Sheep pox and goat pox are notifiable animal diseases. This means that if you suspect them you must report them immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

In England, call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

In Wales, call 0300 303 8268.

In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office.

What happens when you report a notifiable disease in your animals.

How sheep pox and goat pox are spread

The diseases are spread by:

  • direct contact between infected animals
  • indirect contact with contaminated objects such as clothing, footwear, farm equipment, bedding and feed
  • aerosols
  • biting insects

Preventing and controlling sheep pox and goat pox

You can help prevent sheep pox and goat pox with good hygiene and biosecurity on your premises.

If you suspect sheep pox or goat pox you must report it immediately.

Find out more about preventing animal disease and how the government will control an outbreak in:

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 28 September 2023 + show all updates
  1. Added information on sheep pox and goat pox emerging in Europe. Updated the signs of the diseases and how they are spread.

  2. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

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

  4. First published.