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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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.

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