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Blue Tongue

Bluetongue is an insect-borne, viral disease primarily of sheep, occasionally goats and deer and, very rarely, cattle. The disease is non-contagious and is only transmitted by insect vectors. The disease is caused by a virus belonging to the family Reoviridae.

Primarily a disease of sheep but other species such as goats, cattle, buffaloes, camels, antelopes and deer can be infected. Humans are not affected.

The virus is present in most countries of Africa, the Middle East, India, China, the United States, and Mexico. Bluetongue virus infection, without associated clinical disease, is present in Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, northern South America and northern Australia. A strain of bluetongue virus was first identified in Australia in 1975 from trapped insects but despite its long-term presence, it has not caused any clinical disease.

The disease is characterised by fever, widespread haemorrhages of the oral and nasal tissue, excessive salivation, and nasal discharge. In acute cases the lips and tongue become swollen and this swelling may extend below the lower jaw. Lameness, due to swelling of the cuticle above the hoofs and emaciation, due to reduced feed consumption because of painful inflamed mouths, may also be symptoms of this disease. The blue tongue that gives the disease its name occurs only in small number of cases. Convalescence of surviving sheep is slow. The high fever in sheep results in wool breaks, which adds to production losses.

The virus cannot be transmitted between susceptible animals without the presence of the insect carriers. The incidence and geographical distribution of bluetongue depends on seasonal conditions, the presence of insect vectors, and the availability of the susceptible species of animals. The insect carriers, biting midges, prefer warm, moist conditions and are in their greatest numbers and most active after rains.

For more information on Blue Tongue, diagnosis, treatment and prevention click here.

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