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Schmallenberg Virus 

This new virus (an Orthobunyavirus) was first identified in October 2011 and named after the German town where it was first identified. It has become widely distributed throughout Northern Europe. It was identified in the South and East of England in early 2012.

Transmission of the virus is believed to be by biting insect carriers, such as midges and mosquitoes, as most Orthobunyaviruses spread this way though this has not yet been definitively confirmed. Direct transmission from one animal to another is as yet unknown but may be a possibility. The virus likely arrived through wind-blown insects from Europe. South Wales would have been a medium risk area for transmission of the virus (possibly through native midges) from South England during spring and summer of 2012. There have now been confirmed cases in South wales and in the Bridgend area. Currently the virus has affected cattle, sheep and goats.

Two main clinical presentations have been noted:

Adult cows with an acute infection may have diarrhoea, fever and a reduction in milk yield. There is usually a full and rapid recovery. Affected herds have had outbreaks lasting 2-3 weeks. Adult or growing sheep have not been reported as showing clinical signs.

The second presentation is related to foetal abnormalities such as animals born dead or alive at term with malformations. Abortions have also been noted. Malformations include bent limbs, fixed joints, twisted necks and spines, domed skulls, a short lower jaw and brain deformities. Other animals are born with a normal appearance but have odd signs such as blindness, unsteadiness, inability to suck and sometimes convulsions. Foetal abnormalities are most common in sheep but can occur in cattle and goats also. Farmers need to be aware if ewes are not progressing with lambing that they may have deformed foetuses which they are unable to lamb.

Evidence so far suggests that many animals have been infected with Schmallenberg virus without any clinical signs detected. The impact in most affected herds and flocks has been low, although a small minority of farms have had significant losses. Other viruses in this group typically produce a strong immune response in animals affected with the virus which protects them from future disease of deformed offspring. It is hoped that Schmallenberg virus will behave similarly but this is as yet unknown. There is currently no vaccine or treatment available.

It is very unlikely that there is any risk to humans though with any new virus it is best to take sensible hygiene precautions when dealing with affected livestock or abortion material.

This is not a notifiable disease but it is advised by AHVLA that livestock owners should contact their veterinary surgeons if they suspect cases. Details of suspected or confirmed cases will remain confidential.

For more information please follow this link to the Animal Health website.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/schmallenberg-virus/

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