Farmers urged to be alert to threat of Virus
Whilst there have been no confirmed cases of the Schmallenberg Virus in Northern Ireland farmers have been put on alert because the disease is now being detected further west in mainland England. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is continuing to monitor developments including discussions at the European Commission.
What is Schmallenberg Virus?
Schmallenberg Virus is a new emerging livestock disease that has been detected in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. The virus has been associated with brief mild/moderate disease (milk drop, pyrexia, diarrhoea) in adult cattle and late abortion or birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.
Named after the small German town where it was first detected last summer, the disease is thought to have been brought to Britain by midges from affected areas in Europe. As this is a new virus there are still many unknowns, and surveillance and investigations are ongoing in the UK and in other European countries.
Treatment and control
There is no treatment or vaccine currently available for this disease. As this is a new disease further work is needed to determine what control measures may be appropriate. DARD recommends that as there is uncertainty about the method of spread, good bio security practices should be followed, especially when dealing with imported animals. This includes the single use of needles and good disinfection procedures when dealing with products of afterbirth.
This is not a notifiable disease, but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or foetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease. Veterinary surgeons should then contact their AHVLA/SAC laboratory if they suspect infection with the virus.
Risk to humans
At the moment, a Europe-wide risk assessment has concluded that Schmallenberg Virus is unlikely to cause illness in people. As yet, no human cases have been detected in any new country, and the most closely related viruses only cause animal disease.
Knowledge of Schmallenberg Virus is rapidly changing - read the most up-to-date information on the DARD website - Opens in a new window.