FARMERS have been urged to up their vigilance after the Bluetongue virus was detected at a farm in Kendal.

Movement restrictions are in place at the unidentified premises while the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) rules out spreading by local midges.

The disease was found in 32 cattle imported from an area in France where the disease is prevalent.

Two of the animals were found in Kendal and experts are stressing the need for farmers in South Lakeland to vaccinate their stock against the midge-borne virus.

Ian Richards, a South Lakes-based consultant vet, said: “The key is vigilance over livestock and not ignoring any signs that farmers might see.

“The typical images of Bluetongue that are associated with the disease is not actually that common.

“Animals with the disease are more likely to be off their food, salivating a lot and perhaps a little bit lame.”

The APHA identified the disease in cattle in Kendal, Preston and at two locations in Scotland.

Action is being taken to ensure there is no spread of the disease, with targeted surveillance and the humane culling of animals where necessary.

Movement restrictions will be in place on the premises for several weeks.

Farmers are reminded that animals from these regions must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork to show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.

Mr Richards said that vigilance was especially important because of the prevalence of midges at the moment due to the warm, damp autumn so far.

This increases the risk of the transmission of the disease.

“Do not ignore anything you cannot fully explain,” Mr Richards said. “The risk at the moment is quite low based on the information we have received and the fact that it was detected fairly quickly.

“There was only a small window between when the animals arrived and when they were tested. They are being sent back or, sadly, culled.

“We also have had a cold frost since then, which will have helped enormously in bringing the risk right down. If anybody is uncertain about anything they see they should contact their vet.”

Bluetongue is spread by the Culicoides biting midge. The nature of it means that where infection is present and circulating, protection is best achieved through vaccination.

Chief veterinary officer for the UK, Nigel Gibbens, said: “Keepers must remain vigilant and report any suspicions. They may also want to talk to their vet to consider if vaccination would benefit their business.”

The disease poses no risk to humans.

Key signs:

lThe disease is characterised by fever, widespread haemorrhages of the oral and nasal tissue, excessive salivation, and nasal discharge

lLips and tongue can become swollen

lLameness due to swelling of the cuticle above the hoofs

lEmaciation due to reduced feed consumption because of painful inflamed mouths

lThe blue tongue that gives the disease its name occurs only in small number of cases