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Schmallenberg vaccine is result of 'intensive activity'

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has licensed veterinary pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health to provide the "Bovolis SBV" vaccine for animals affected by the Schmallenberg virus.

VMD chief executive Pete Borriello said:

This is the culmination of intensive activity on the part of MSD Animal Health and the VMD to make a safe and effective vaccine available to tackle Schmallenberg.

Without in any way compromising the scientific rigour of our assessment process, we accelerated our assessment so that a vaccine will be available this summer.

This means it will be possible to vaccinate sheep and cattle before most of them become pregnant. This is important as it is during pregnancy when exposure to the virus can cause damage to the foetus.

Schmallenberg virus vaccine for UK farmers

A new vaccine could be made available to farmers whose livestock has been affected by the Schmallenberg virus, it was announced today.

The virus, which emerged in the Netherlands and Germany in 2011 and causes severe birth defects and miscarriages, has been identified on more than 1,700 farms across the country.

UK farmers will be the first in the European Union to have access to the Schmallenberg vaccine Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Adult animals infected by virus-carrying midges, thought to have blown across the Channel, gave birth to deformed or stillborn lambs and calves.

UK farmers will be the first in the European Union to have access to the vaccine, which will be used this summer, before most animals become pregnant again.

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Farmers call for help with Schmallenberg virus

Farmers are calling on the Government to develop a vaccine for the Schmallenberg virus which affects sheep and cattle.

As the lambing season starts farmers are starting to see the virus affecting flocks. The virus can result in stillborn and deformed offspring.

Sheep covered in snow stand in a field near Leicester Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

DEFRA say the disease causes between 2-5% of losses for farmers, but three farmers have told ITV News that they have lost between 20% and 50% of their herds.

the National Farmers Union is calling for more help from central Government.

Schmallenberg not nearly as serious as bluetongue

Sheep affected with bluetongue in 2007 Credit: BBSRC

Experts say that although an outbreak of the Schmallenberg virus would be bad news for livestock farmers, it is not nearly as bad as a bluetongue outbreak.

Schmallenberg only causes mild symptoms in adult livestock and affects less than a third of newborn animals.

Bluetongue spread to the UK from the Continent in 2007, and prompted an emergency response of widespread vaccination. There were fears it could have killed 25-30% of the country's sheep.

What is the Schmallenberg virus?

The Schmallenberg virus originated in Germany and is carried on the wind by midges. Outbreaks have tended to coincide with midge seasons during hotter weather. There is no evidence of any health risk to humans, but symptoms in livestock include:

  • Causes mild symptoms in adult cattle such as fever and diarrhoea
  • Reduces milk in dairy cows
  • Animals that have been infected are immune
  • Two-30% of infected sheep, cattle and goats give birth to deformed or stillborn offspring

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Schmallenberg virus could 'cover most of the country'

Scientists who thought that midges carrying the Schmallenberg virus had died over the winter now believe some survived and are circulating the virus in the UK.

Professor Peter Mertens of the Institute of Animal Health said:

On the basis it spread last year very effectively, I see no reason why it couldn't spread to cover most of the country this year.

Schmallenberg virus could be making a comeback

The Schmallenberg virus, which causes cows and sheep to give birth to deformed or stillborn offspring, could be making a comeback, tests have shown.

Pregnant cows and sheep are affected by the virus Credit: ITV News

Test carried out on around 150 cattle and more than 1,000 sheep belonging to the Royal Veterinary College since March have shown that a small number of animals which had previously tested negative for the disease have now tested positive.

The Schmallenberg virus first emerged last year in the Netherlands and Germany. It is thought that virus-carrying midges were blown across the Channel where they infected 276 farms in the UK since early 2012.

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