The government has warned farmers to be aware of a possible increase of cases of bluetongue virus over the coming months as the weather warms.

Defra has confirmed that the seasonal low vector period has now ended due to an increase in biting midge activity amid warmer spring weather.

It is therefore planning for a possible increase of bluetongue virus cases over the next few months.

As well as the weather warming, there was a heightened risk of infected biting midges blowing over from northern Europe, Defra said.

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Bluetongue virus is usually transmitted by midge bites and affects cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas.

Midges are most active between April and November and not all susceptible animals show immediate, or any, signs of contracting the virus.

Impacts on susceptible animals can vary greatly – some show no symptoms or effects at all while for others it can cause productivity issues such as reduced milk yield, while in the most severe cases can be fatal for infected animals.

However, despite the new warning from the government, the risk of bluetongue transmission and the risk level has not changed.

But farms from Norfolk to Kent and along the south coast from Kent to Devon have been told they are at the highest risk of incursion.

Defra said: "Farmers should continue to monitor their animals frequently for clinical signs and make sure their animals and land are registered with APHA so we can locate animals in the event of an outbreak.

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"Surveillance of susceptible animals and epidemiological assessments will continue. We will keep the situation under review."

Temporary control zones (TCZs) were set up in November 2023 following the UK's first case of bluetongue virus since 2007.

Established in Kent and Norfolk, they were designed to limit the movement of livestock to control the spread of bluetongue, which causes infertility and breathing problems in sheep, cattle and goats.

Since November, there have been well over 100 bluetongue cases in England.

There is currently no vaccine to fight the virus.