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Currently in Europe and the UK, there is a concern over a recent outbreak of a new virus, called the Schmallenberg Virus.
20 December 2012: issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regarding a few outbreaks that occurred in cattle over the summer of 2011 in Germany and the Netherlands.
5 January 2012: The first goat farm affected was reported in Belgium and three goat farms in the Netherlands.
31 January 2012: Lambs have been found infected with the virus in France and the UK, specifically in Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and East Sussex. There are 350 farms in the Netherlands, including 17 goat farms and 7 goat farms in Germany that have received positive results for the virus.
10 February 2012: Five goats have been reported positive for the virus in the Netherlands, 1 in Belgium and 19 goats in Germany.
22 February 2012: The disease has now spread in England and to northern Italy and Luxembourg. Goats have been affected in Italy (1), Luxembourg (1), the Netherlands (5), Belgium (1) and Germany (31).
Because it is such a newly discovered virus, much is still unknown, although research is progressing.
This virus is similar to the Orthobunyavirus and it has affected cattle, sheep and goats to date. The transmission of this virus to humans is a possibility, based on the fact that there are a few viruses from the Orthobunyavirus genus that are zoonosis. Yet, experts are considering human transmission unlikely.
The virus seems to be transmitted through vectors, specifically through midges and mosquitoes and possibly through direct transmission, although none of this is confirmed due to the virus' recent discovery. At this time, it is believed that the virus should die down during winter months, when the midges are no longer circulating.
Mild illness with fever, up to 50% reduction of milk yield, loss of appetite and condition and sometimes diarrhoea were reported in cattle during the first outbreak in the summer of 2011. The cattle recovered, but calves were born deformed.
Since then there have been deformed lambs and kids reported as well as abortions.
It seems that sheep and goats are only affected with a rise in neonatal deformities and abortion.
Deformities include defects relating to limbs and neurological problems. These include arthrogyposis or locked joints, the shortening of the hamstrings, hydranecephaly, stiff neck, deformation of the jaw, flaccid paralysis, blindness, exaggerated movements, hyperexcitability, feeding difficulties and ataxia.
There is no vaccination or treatment plan in place due to the lack of information on the virus.
The disease is not notifiable in the UK, although reporting suspicious cases to Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) is advised, especially regarding neonatal deformities.
It is believed to have entered the UK with wind borne midges or the importation of asymptomatic infected animals, between August and October of 2011 from the Netherlands and/or Germany.
It is thought that it will likely be 12 months before a vaccine can be developed, as this is such a new virus. After the Blue Tongue outbreaks in recent years, animals are now routinely vaccinated again this disease as a vaccine was developed.
Sheep have a five month pregnancy period so it is thought that the infections occurred last September.
Great concern has been expressed that when the cattle give birth later this year, more problems may occur with this virus causing deformities in calves.
DEFRA (2011) Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Europe: a new orthobunyavirus in cattle. Accessed 27/02/2012.
DEFRA (2012) An update on Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Europe. Accessed 27/02/2012.
DEFRA (2012) Update No.3 on Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Europe. Accessed 272/2012.
DEFRA (2012) Update No.4 on Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Europe. Accessed 27/02/2012.
DEFRA. (2012) Update No.5 on Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Europe. Accessed 27/02/2012.
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