Page last updated at 20:31 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 21:31 UK

Bluetongue cases detected at farm

There are calls for vaccinations against the disease

An outbreak of the animal disease bluetongue has been detected at a dairy farm in Devon, Defra has confirmed.

A total of eight heifers at the farm in Tiverton have tested positive for the non-contagious virus.

The animals were among a consignment of 35 Holstein heifers imported from Germany within the last week.

The cases were detected by routine testing, which is carried out on all bluetongue susceptible animals arriving from continental Europe.

There is no evidence to suggest that the virus is circulating between local midge and animal populations
Defra statement

The heifers were transported from a bluetongue protection zone in Germany to Devon, itself within a protection zone.

A Defra statement said: "It is not unexpected to find infected animals in the protection zone.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the virus is circulating between local midge and animal populations in the local areas.

"Full epidemiological investigations are underway."

The bluetongue virus, spread by midges, is non-contagious but can have a potentially fatal effect on cattle herds, sheep and other ruminants, like llamas.

The government has gradually been rolling out bluetongue protection zones across England.

Northumberland and Cumbria will be the last two counties to enter the zone on 1 September.

Livestock can only be transported out of a zone if they have been vaccinated, are naturally immune or are being moved for slaughter.

Defra said: "All livestock farmers are strongly encouraged to be vigilant and to vaccinate at the earliest possible opportunity."

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