Experts warn that bluetongue virus transmission is now possible in high-risk counties in England due to the recent increase in temperatures.

The warming weather and average daily temperatures consistently above 12°C require farmers' alertness against bluetongue.

High-risk counties including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, and East Sussex, are particularly vulnerable due to their closeness to affected areas in northern Europe.

Research associate at the Pirbright Institute, Chris Sanders, underlines the significant impact of temperature increases on the threat posed by the new bluetongue strain, BTV-3, to UK livestock.

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He stated: “With the warmer temperatures we’ve recently seen, we know that the activity of biting midges that spread the virus has increased.”

He added that the development of bluetongue virus in midges is temperature dependent.

“It is now warm enough that if a midge were to come into contact with BTV-3, local virus transmission between midges and ruminants in the UK would now be possible."

The level of BTV-3 transmission in European countries and meteorological factors will influence whether infected biting midges will be blown over to the UK from northern Europe. Monitoring efforts are being conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), the UK's Met Office, and the Pirbright Institute.

Sanders warned farmers: “During this period of warmer weather, and with disease reported on the continent, we have to consider that the risk of BTV-3 being reintroduced to the UK will increase."

Last November, government vets identified the first case of the disease in Britain through the annual bluetongue surveillance programme. The government recently set out plans to minimise the impact of a likely outbreak, anticipating a surge in cases during the summer months.

Currently, there is no BTV-3 vaccine authorised or approved for use in the UK.