British veterinary officials have confirmed a full-blown outbreak of bluetongue livestock infection, the second major cattle disease to hit the country this year.

Britain's deputy chief veterinary officer, Fred Landeg said Friday, he can confirm that the disease is now circulating in the country, meaning it is an outbreak rather than isolated cases.

It was first detected earlier this week in a cow on a farm near Ipswich in eastern England. Since then, four additional cows have been confirmed as infected.

The virus is spread by biting insects like midges and can turn the animal's tongue blue. It strikes mostly cows and sheep, and does not affect humans.

Britain's National Farmer's Union called the news of the disease a bitter blow to farmers already affected by the outbreak of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease.

Bluetongue is mostly found in the Mediterranean region, but has recently moved north.

On Tuesday, British officials lifted control zones around farms in southern England after animals there tested negative for foot and mouth disease.

A foot and mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001 led to the slaughter of six million animals and cost farmers more than $17 billion.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.