BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 02:33 GMT 03:33 UK
Bluetongue farm family 'hopeful'
Police car outside farm
Police have closed the road leading to the farm

The family running a Suffolk farm hit by the UK's first case of bluetongue disease say they are "hopeful" about their future.

The insect-borne virus, which has killed livestock across Europe, was found in a Highland cow at the Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, near Ipswich.

The Storer family said they were sad to lose their cow, but remained optimistic about the future of their business.

Farming leaders say they are confident there will not be a major outbreak.

Separately, a suspected foot-and-mouth case is being checked in Hampshire.

Officials confirmed on Sunday that a 3km temporary control zone was placed around a premises near Petersfield.

'Great favourite'

Meanwhile, experts have told the BBC the British climate may stop the bluetongue disease spreading.

Sheep, cattle, goats and deer can be infected but humans are not at risk.

The affected farm is run by Richard, Ann and Neil Storer - as well as cattle, they have a collection of rare sheep, pygmy goats, chickens and pigs.

The only thing saving us from bluetongue is our climate
Professor Peter Mertens

In a statement, the Storer family said: "We have lost Debbie, a Highland cow who was a great favourite with our regular visitors.

"However the future is hopeful and we are so grateful that we have not had to endure the terrible trauma that farmers in Surrey must be going through."

Further tests are being carried out at the farm to determine whether any more animals have been affected by the bluetongue disease.

The infected cow's carcass has been removed from the farm. Tests on other livestock are being conducted.

It would not be classed as an outbreak unless other cases were confirmed.

The bluetongue disease is not contagious but often leads to death in sheep.

BLUETONGUE IN CATTLE
Drooling
Swelling of the head and neck
Conjunctivitis
Swelling of the mouth
Swollen teats
Tiredness

Animals with it experience discomfort, with flu-like symptoms, and swelling and haemorrhaging in and around the mouth and nose.

They can also go lame and have difficulty eating properly.

There have been nearly 3,000 cases of bluetongue in Northern Europe - including the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany - since July, which had fuelled fears of its arrival in the UK.

Tests have shown the UK case is serotype eight - the same strain of the disease which has affected animals recently in Northern Europe.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall said he was hopeful there would be no major outbreak of the disease.

"I'm optimistic this can be quite an isolated localised case and going into winter these midges aren't as active as they would have been if this had happened two or three months ago."

Map

Professor Peter Mertens of the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright in Surrey has told the BBC that the midges may not be able to survive the British climate.

"The only thing saving us from bluetongue is our climate. There is hope," he said.

"If we start having frost, it will kill off the majority of adult midges. A few good frosts will really bring the midge season to an end. When that happens it's the end of transmission."

Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said: "It remains vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for this disease and report any suspect cases, particularly as clinical signs may be similar to foot-and-mouth disease."

Robin Richards, who owns the farm next to Baylham House, said he was braced for news his animals were infected.

"If he's got it I consider I must almost certainly have it because the midges must have come over our farm and that's how it spreads," he said.

He added his main concern was that the government would decide to cull livestock in the area.

Control zone plans

Agriculture Minister Lord Rooker told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference that ministers had already planned for the possibility of the disease arriving in Britain.

"We have been expecting it because of what's happened in Europe in the last couple of years. It's come from North Africa. It isn't a surprise. We were expecting it."

If the virus has spread, Defra said it would impose a 20km (12.4m) control zone around the infected farm.

On top of foot-and-mouth, it's another body blow to another already struggling industry
Stephen Rash
Suffolk farmer

There would also be a 150km (93.2m) surveillance zone.

Defra said it was not imposing any additional movement restrictions above those currently in force due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Farming leaders said the discovery of bluetongue had come at a bad time for an industry already struggling with movement and export restrictions imposed because of foot-and-mouth.

The president of the British Veterinary Association, David Catlow, said he feared the disease could become prevalent in the UK.

"We're possibly a year away before the development of some new, inactivated vaccines that will be the way ultimately to control it."

Bluetongue disease is transmitted by midges, traditionally the Culicoides imicola midge. It is passed from animal to midge, and from midge to animal, but is not transmitted from animal to animal.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The BBC's Countryfile visited Belgian farms hit by the virus



RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific