Bluetongue is carried by a midge bite, which can be fatal to sheep and cows. The risk assessment report predicts that there is an 80 percent chance that the midges that transmit the disease will arrive in Britain this summer.
The virus thrives in warm weather and infections in France are expected to ramp up in April and May, move northwards to the coast and be blown across the English Channel, according to the report.
Originally from sub-Saharan Africa, the virus does not affect humans or food. In August 2015, the virus was found on a farm in France, which was the first outbreak in the European Union since 2011. The virus was once found in farms in southern England in 2007 but it was eradicated soon after a vaccination campaign.
It is not known whether the latest outbreak in France stems from the virus surviving in wild animals, such as deer, or being reintroduced from elsewhere.
The virus can, in fatal cases, cause swelling in animals that restricts the flow of blood to the tongue, leaving it blue. Most animals survive but suffer weight loss, miscarriages and birth defects, and milk production can be reduced. Sheep are most vulnerable and there is no treatment for the virus. Enditem