This is really bad, bad news.
Defra officials have confirmed discovery of the first-ever case of Bluetongue disease in Britain , in a cow near Ipswich, Suffolk.
An insect borne viral disease carried by the biting midge Culicoides imicola is the principal (if not the sole vector) in Europe and all ruminants - cattle, sheep, goats and deer, can be infected but it is not a known zoonosis - it doesn't affect human health.
Pic of head of midge - (NHI Pirbright) - The rod-shaped piece protects needle-like stylets that act as scissors to open a wound in the skin of the animal. Saliva and an anticoagulant are then injected into the wound and blood sucked up to provide the midge with its food. Note the compound eyes, looking rather like bunches of grapes.
Native to Africa it has spread in recent years northward and over 3,000 cases have have been recorded this year in Europe. Climate change mongerers claim the spread is due to the warming southern European climate allowing the midge to reproduce and spread.
Symptoms include a sort of flu, swelling and haemorrhaging in and around the mouth and nose. They can also go lame and have difficulty eating properly.
Once infected there is (as yet) no known treatment nor is a vaccine available. Death often results and milking animals have severely reduced milk production. Exclusion zones have to be massive - one hasn't been declared yet as onyl one animal has been diagnosed - but they require a radius up to 150 Km. It also imposes restriction on animal exports - a restricvtion now imposed on the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg,
Another case of Foot and Mouth found has been found within current Exclusion zones in Surrey and the herd of 40 East Sussex cows in Old Windsor killed off.
NHI factfiles here
Lord Patel posted about the Bluetongue threat earlier this year.
"In the US, " “bluetongue is a major obstacle to exportation of U.S. ruminants and ruminant products and probably affects the United States more than most countries.”
The good news is that IAH are on the case and working hard at it .... In August 2006, Dutch authorities reported the first ever case of bluetongue in Northern Europe. Since an initial report on June 14th in North Rhine Westphalia, clinical and subclinical cases have been reported from sheep and cattle in Germany, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands over 2,000 herds so far have been infected.
IAH Pirbright is an International Reference Laboratory for bluetongue, and provides diagnostic services to the European Community (EC), the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Institute is working closely with several authorities, including the European Food Safety Authority, on the current outbreak.
Which shows how essential it is the Institute is properly funded, staffed and equipped and supported."
UPDATE SUNDAY :
It is reported (BBC) that the virus types as the same as the strains discovered earlier this year in Europe. Presumably infected midges being blown over being the cause.