U.K. Discovers Bluetongue Disease in Cattle for First Time

More tests were being carried out at a farm in eastern England Sunday after Bluetongue — a virus affecting cows and other ruminant animals — was detected for the first time in Britain.

A cow was infected with the disease on a farm near Ipswich, 70 miles northeast of London, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement Saturday.

"This is not a confirmed outbreak unless further investigation demonstrates that disease is circulating," the environment agency said.

The discovery comes as Britain is trying to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Six cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed on farms in southern England since Aug. 3 and about 1,800 animals have been slaughtered since the outbreak began.

Bluetongue is not harmful to humans, but can be fatal for ruminant animals, especially sheep.

It is transmitted by certain species of midges once common only in Mediterranean climes. Experts say the insect has moved farther north due to global warming, and bluetongue may now be endemic in northern Europe.

Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg told Sky News on Saturday that tests would be conducted to determine whether midges were spreading the virus through the animal population.

If the virus is circulating, the government will put restrictions on the movement of animals within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius control zone around the farm, Landeg said.

The disease has recently been found in the Netherlands after moving north from Belgium and west from Germany.

"We knew that there was the possibility that infected midges could possibly be blown across the sea," Landeg said.

Britain's environment agency said the infected cow would be slaughtered and scientists were investigating.