Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 13:11 UK

Bluetongue virus is found on farm

A sheep infected with bluetongue
Bluetongue was first reported in the UK in 2007

Bluetongue has been found in 18 imported cattle on a farm near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, according to officials at Defra.

The animals were bought from Germany, which has already had cases of the virus, which is spread by midges.

Defra has so far not identified the farm involved, but has said the infected animals cannot be moved.

A Defra spokesman said it was the fourth incidence of infected animals being imported to the UK.

Earlier this month a protection zone, already in force in other parts of the UK, was extended into the North East and Cumbria.

Vaccination urged

Deputy chief veterinary officer, Alick Simmons said: "This incident shows how important it is for farmers to consider potential disease risks when buying stock, regardless of source.

"Buyers need to consider how best to protect their own businesses and those of their neighbours and make sure they are clear about the stock they are intending to buy.

"I also want to remind farmers about the importance of vaccination.

"It is the only effective tool to protect susceptible animals from bluetongue.

"The threat from bluetongue is present and real, as shown by the most recent import cases."

Cows, sheep and goats can now only be moved in or out of protection zones if they have been vaccinated.

The virus, spread by midges, was first reported in the UK in 2007. Since then, more than 100 farms have been infected.

Vaccination to combat bluetongue
01 Sep 08 |  England
Study examines bluetongue spread
08 Aug 08 |  Science/Nature
Q&A: Bluetongue disease
22 Feb 08 |  UK

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