Climate change will increase risk of BTV outbreak – study

The study suggests a combination of location, weather and animal movement restrictions helped limit the impact of the 2007 UK outbreak, while another predicts larger outbreaks by 2100.

A set of fortunate circumstances may have prevented the UK from being harder hit by bluetongue virus (BTV) in the past, but the threat of future outbreaks will only increase, research has revealed.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have used mathematical modelling to identify why the 2007 UK outbreak of BTV – a viral disease spread by midge bites that affects sheep and cattle – was smaller than it could have been and predict future impact of the disease in northern Europe as the climate warms.
A paper published in Scientific Reports suggested a combination of geographic location, weather conditions and existing animal movement restrictions helped limit the impact of the 2007 UK outbreak to 135 farms.

Heatwave impact

While the 2006 heatwave across Europe is thought to have played a significant role in boosting BTV transmission, by the time it reached the UK the following year, summer temperatures were actually below average.
The final piece of luck was the presence of animal movement restrictions that were already in place for the 2007 UK foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, which the researchers said almost certainly helped to contain the BTV outbreak.
A paper published in Nature Climate Change explored the risk of BTV transmission under future climates. The study predicted, by 2100, the disease risk will extend further north, the transmission season will last up to three months longer and outbreaks will be larger.