Livestock virus hits farms

A new animal disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock has now been found on 74 farms in England. The Schmallenberg virus first emerged in the Netherlands and Germany last year.

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  1. Lawrence McGinty

Analysis: Virus is unlikely to affect people, but cannot be ruled out

First thing to say about the Schmallenberg virus is that we do not know much about it - the first outbreaks were only reported last summer and it was only identified in November.

The Schmallenberg virus affects livestock Credit: ITV News

What we do know is that its part of a family of viruses that are spread by biting insects particularly midges. Most of these viruses don't infect humans. So it seems unlikely that Schmallenberg virus will infect people.

But I remember when scientists said BSE would not infect humans because it was very similar to another disease in sheep that was known not to infect humans. As we know that turned out to be faulty logic.

On the other hand, there have now been over 1,300 outbreaks of the virus across Europe and no cases of human infections, among farm workers, for example, have been reported.

So I think what we can say from the science is that it's unlikely this virus will infect people - but we can not yet rule it out completely. That is why health authorites are keeping a close watch on people who come into contact with infected animals to make sure.


Largest number of livestock virus cases reported in eastern counties

The largest number of Schmallenberg virus cases have been reported in eastern counties - in Suffolk, Norfolk, East Sussex and Kent - but the disease has been found as far west as Cornwall.

Positive cases have recently been identified on the Isle of Wight and in Wiltshire, West Berkshire and Gloucestershire, while other counties including Essex, West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire have also seen cases.

  1. Neil Connery

Farmer: losing livestock is 'a real worry'

Farmer Christine Kinge loses 4 lambs to the Schmallenberg virus Credit: Neil Connery

Farmer Christine Kinge, who farms just outside Norwich, lost 4 lambs to Schmallenberg virus at the end of January.

She has told ITV News: "It's a real worry. You cant tell until the moment they are born. I have 160 ewes due to lamb in next two weeks. How many, if any, have got it I just don't know. That uncertainty is so hard to live with".


Latest figures show 83 farms affected by new animal virus

The number of farms affected by a new animal disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock has increased to 83, the latest figures show.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) said that Schmallenberg virus had now been detected in 78 cases in sheep and five in cattle, on farms across southern and eastern England.

It is thought the virus is spread by midges, and has crossed the Channel from the Continent. The AHVLA said that so far none of the affected farms has reported importing animals during 2011 from the affected areas in mainland Europe.

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