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Bluetongue is a disease affecting all ruminants, including:
  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Deer
  • Goats
  • Camelids (camels, llamas, alpacas, guanaco and vicuña)

It does not affect horses or pigs. 

What are the causes?

It is caused by a virus spread by certain types of biting midges.

The midge season is normally March to September.

The weather, especially temperature and wind direction, affects how the disease can spread. 

What harm does it cause?

Bluetongue can have significant economic impacts in terms of:

  • On-farm losses due to death.
  • Sickness.
  • Reduced productivity.
  • Losses to export revenue because live exports are banned from affected areas. 

Please note: Bluetongue does not affect humans, animal products or meat.

How do I spot Bluetongue?


In sheep the main signs of bluetongue are:

  • Ulcers in the mouth.
  • Discharge of mucus and drooling from the mouth and nose.
  • Swelling of the mouth, head and neck and the coronary band (where the skin of the leg meets the horn of the foot).

Other clinical signs include:

  • Red skin as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface.
  • Fever.
  • Lameness.
  • Breathing problems.


Cattle are the main carriers of bluetongue.

Infected cattle generally do not show any signs of the disease, but occasionally signs can include:

  • Swelling and ulcers in the mouth.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Red skin and eyes as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface.
  • Swollen teats.
  • Tiredness.

Other animals

They rarely show signs of the disease.

Role of local authorities

In Staffordshire, we are responsible for enforcing:

We focus on ensuring the farming industry are aware of any livestock movement restrictions and that they comply with any restrictions that are put into place.

Local authorities also aim to make sure that appropriate advice is provided and information is available to their local communities.

It is not expected that widespread control of midges will be undertaken and it is rarely possible to completely eliminate populations.

Reporting Bluetongue

If you suspect Bluetongue you must phone APHA immediately on 03000 200 301.

Please note: Failure to do so is an offence.

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