Bluetongue has been detected in a heifer imported into Northern Ireland from France.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey, has urged farmers to remain vigilant, following the discovery.
The animal, which was imported last week, tested positive following a stringent post-import testing regime.
Dr Huey said: “This detection is an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action, however the identification offers another timely reminder to farmers for the need to think carefully before importing susceptible animals from Bluetongue affected areas.
“It is vitally important that we keep Bluetongue out. The risk is not only to themselves but to the whole industry as the impacts on trade could be catastrophic as a result.
“If farmers feel they must import from Bluetongue-affected countries, they should consider what additional guarantees the seller can provide such as requesting a pre-export test to be carried out to prove effective immunity to the Bluetongue virus.”
Dr Huey added: “Anyone who imports from Bluetongue affected countries or zones risks the possibility that, if the imported animals are subsequently found to be infected with Bluetongue, the animals will be slaughtered and no compensation will be paid.”
Bluetongue does not cause disease in humans or affect food safety. It is a virus transmitted by midge bites and affects cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. It can reduce milk yield and cause infertility, and in the most severe cases is fatal for infected animals. The midges are most active between May and October and not all susceptible animals show immediate signs of contracting the virus.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is taking action to ensure the risk of spread of the disease is reduced, with veterinary investigations under way and movement restrictions in place at the premises. The affected animal has been humanely culled.
The Department is also tracing and testing associated herds and an epidemiological investigation has been initiated to assess the situation. This investigation will help determine if disease is circulating, however as we are now outside the active midge period, this is highly unlikely. Therefore at this time the UK remains officially Bluetongue free.