27/02/2012

Schmallenberg Virus Spreads

The first cases of Schmallenberg virus have been confirmed on the Isle of Wight, in West Berkshire and in Gloucestershire.

The disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock.

The latest data from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency puts the total number of UK holdings affected at 74.

Cases have also been confirmed in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Cornwall.

The tally of UK farms to have returned positive tests has increased by 16 since Thursday. On the Continent, more than 1,000 sites have suffered the virus.

The UK's chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens, told the BBC: "With a vector-borne disease like this, there really is very little you can do and time will tell whether it will need a vaccine.

"We know that vaccine manufacturers are showing an interest but it takes them time - quite often two years or so - to develop a vaccine.

"The European Centre for Disease Control, who looks at this across Europe, and our own health protection agency looked at this very early on, and, given the knowledge the experts have of this group of viruses, they seem to affect only animals.

"We can't, of course, rule that out but we think the likelihood is very low. It's always, with a new virus difficult to talk about 'never', but all the indications are that human health won't be affected."

The majority of GB cases have been diagnosed in sheep, with 69 to date. Five cases have been confirmed in cattle.

(GK)


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