28 February 2015 | Online since 2003



Schmallenberg case 'must be investigated to understand virus'


Following the discovery of the Schmallenberg virus in Dyfed, West Wales, earlier this week, there have been calls for a thorough and rapid investigation to aid understanding of the virus.

"It’s disappointing to hear that Schmallenberg has been circulating in West Wales, as we did not think it had spread that far at this stage." said Joanne Pugh of the National Sheep Association.

The presence of SBV in Wales is not unexpected. The Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), the Welsh Government and the Wales Animal Health & Welfare Strategy Steering Group have kept SBV under close scrutiny since its arrival in Britain late in 2011.

As of July this year, there were 275 UK farms reporting positive for SBV. Of these, 53 were in cattle, 219 in sheep and three in both.

“There is a strong need to continue to monitor SBV in Wales and to this end livestock farmers should be vigilant and report suspicions to their private veterinary surgeon,” added Catherine Nakielny, FUW animal health and welfare committee chairman.

Investigations are to be carried out at the farm by AHVLA and the Welsh Government.

It remains possible that midges could continue to spread SBV in Britain through the autumn and into the winter but the FUW hopes the poor weather which has blighted the industry over the summer has reduced the risks of transmission.

There is no known risk to human health from SBV but the advice for pregnant women remains to be cautious around farm animals and to follow strict hygiene procedures, the union has stressed.

“NSA continues to push for a vaccine to be developed and licenced for UK use as quickly as possible, as we just do not know what is around the corner with this disease" added Pugh.

"This new case proves that point and shows how important it is for Defra and others to continue to look at vaccination options. In the meantime farmers must be vigilant to signs of infection, as it is only by seeing different cases that we can lean more.”

“Our thoughts are with the family involved, as it is very distressing to be hit by Schmallenberg through no fault of their own and with no real way of knowing where the virus came from or what long-term effects it might have.”

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