Schmallenberg Virus Threat - Latest News

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 158 farms. Eleven of the positive cases have been diagnosed in cattle, 147 in sheep, and none to date in other species. No increase in the counties affected. SBV infection has only been identified in areas at risk of midge incursion from Northern Europe during summer / autumn 2011.

Figures correct as of 12 March 2012

There are currently no blood tests available and to confirm diagnosis, tissue samples need to be submitted to the AHVLA for testing (usually from aborted lambs or calves)

· Note that if non-pregnant animals are bitten and infected, it is likely they will become immune to the disease

Schmallenberg virus (or SBV) is a new disease that (like BVD) causes congenital defects in lambs, kids and calves born from dams infected during pregnancy

- Like Bluetongue, SBV is spread by Culicoides spp (Midges)

- As of 24th Feb , SBV infection was confirmed in 69 cases in sheep and 5 cases in cattle 

- Numerous cases in cattle and sheep have been reported in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium in last 6 months

- Disease is likely to have been blown across from Northern Europe from Aug-Nov 2011, hence the current SE England distribution

- Numerous cattle have been imported to the UK during this period from affected EU countries, which may be carrying the disease and could therefore bring risk to other areas of the country 

Disease symptoms and diagnosis

 Cattle – diarrhoea, fever and brief milk drop and deformed offspring (if infected during pregnancy)

Sheep – little or no symptoms unless dams infected during pregnancy, however congenital deformities in as much as 50% of offspring have been reported.

There is currently no serological (antibody) test available so this cannot be diagnosed routinely at many laboratories, although this test will hopefully become available in the next few months

To confirm the diagnosis, samples need to be submitted to VLA for PCR (DNA) test for virus isolation 

What are the treatment and prevention options?

There is currently no vaccine available and none is expected in the near future

Midge control options in cattle, Flypor (licensed for the ‘control of flies’) and Swish

It should be noted that using Flypor or Swish control options will not guarantee to halt the transmission of this virus, but products that control midges could reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

This disease is not currently thought to be zoonotic (transmissible to people), though it is too early to be certain

Although not currently notifiable, farmers would be advised to submit any suspicious samples (i.e aborted foetuses with congenital defects) to their local VLA centre


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