New virus worries farmers

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned livestock farmers of the appearance of a new virus causing abortions and fetal abnormalities in ruminants. There has been no cases of Schmallenberg virus in the UK, but the disease has now spread to Belgium after being first observed in the Netherlands and Germany last summer.

Symptoms can include fever (over 40˚C), inappetance and diarrhoea, and generally disappear after a few days. The disease is transmitted by insects, and infections of early stages featuses can cause abortion or congenital disorders.

Belgium recently reported congenital deformities on 18 sheep, one goat and 10 cattle farms. In the Netherlands, 177 farms reported deformed lambs, calves and, in seven cases, kid goats, and animals were tested positive on 51 of the 104 sheep farms that reported congenital disorders. Twenty cattle and six sheep farms have also reported deformities in Germany.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has called for vigilance among private veterinary practices, and the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) also asked for increased vigilance from their members.

Carl Padgett, president of the BVA, said: “Farmers and vets should be extra vigilant where ruminants have been imported from the affected areas. The symptoms described in adults are quite generic, but this disease seems to affect a few animals, not just one. Any suspect signs should be reported to the local AHVLA or SAC laboratory.”