London, Sep 23: The Bluetongue virus found in a cow in eastern England is the same strain which has been found in parts of northern Europe, the agriculture ministry said today.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the case, Britain's first, was not a confirmed outbreak unless further investigation showed that disease was circulating and said that could take ''days or weeks'' to assess.
The discovery of the Bluetongue virus was a fresh setback for Britain's livestock farmers, who have already been hit by the discovery of the more serious foot and mouth disease at several sites in the past two months.
''The strain of Bluetongue virus detected in one cow near Ipswich, Suffolk, has been identified as Serotype 8. This is the strain found in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Netherlands since 2006,'' Defra said in a statement on its Web site.
''The premises where Bluetongue was detected remains under restrictions and epidemiological investigations are being carried out to assess the situation.'' Bluetongue causes fever and mouth ulcers and in some cases turns an animal's tongue blue. It is transmitted by insects such as midges and can be highly dangerous to sheep and cows, although it does not affect humans.
Bluetongue is mostly found in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain and in North Africa, but has spread more widely this year across the more northerly EU countries.
''It remains vitally important that farmers maintain vigilance for this disease and report any suspect cases, particularly as clinical signs may be similar to foot and mouth disease,'' Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer, said.
The detection of the virus came a day after British authorities said they had confirmed another case of foot and mouth disease at a farm in southern England -- the sixth infected premises found since August 3 and ordered the slaughter of its cattle.
Defra said Bluetongue and the measures to be taken against it were both very different from foot and mouth disease cases.
Britain culled more than 6 million animals following an outbreak of foot and mouth in 2001 which cost an estimated 8.5 billion pounds.