28 February 2015 | Online since 2003



Schmallenberg virus circulating, say scientists


Schmallenberg virus could circulate across the UK after the virus has over-wintered according to results uncovered by the Royal Veterinary College and the Institute for Animal Health.

The virus, which causes deformities in lambs and calves, was found on the RVC's farm in Hertfordshire in June.

“The work carried out by the RVC and IAH is very important in enhancing our understanding of the Schmallenberg virus. But we are not surprised that the virus may have over-wintered as this was always a possibility" said Carl Padgett, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

“The fact that the virus is circulating now will be of particular concern in those areas that were previously unaffected, as the animals will not have immunity and farmers face the loss of lambs and calves."

Humans are not at threat from the virus which has managed to survive during winter, when the midge population was low.

Padgett also warned that the circulating virus could be of particular concern in those areas that were previously unaffected, as the animals will not have immunity.

Farmers face the loss of lambs and calves despite likely immunity in previously affected areas. The protectiveness of this remains unknown.

"We must be watchful for new cases in the currently infected areas" Padgett said.

“Today’s news underlines the vital importance of surveillance, monitoring and reporting. It is important to emphasise that at this stage we have only seen evidence of the virus circulating in a small number of animals and so we need to keep the situation under review.

“Work on a vaccine is progressing well but it is unlikely to be available for some months. In the meantime farmers and vets must continue to share as much information as possible to continue to progress our understanding.”

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