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Schmallenberg Found in Scotland

28 March 2013

SCOTLAND - Confirmation that a new viral disease has been discovered in Scotland for the first time was an expected but disappointing blow to Scottish cattle and sheep producers.

Spread by midges, the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) was first identified on German and Dutch farms in 2011 and spread throughout parts of Europe and southern England. Results from surveillance across GB in 2012 indicated much wider evidence of spread of SBV and sero-positive animals have been found in the North of England.

Previous surveillance in Scotland identified animals carrying antibodies to SBV but these had been brought into the country from at risk areas. The recent discovery of positive animals in a closed dairy herd in Dumfries and Galloway confirmed the widely held expectation that the virus has spread to Scotland and is likely to start to circulate widely in 2013.

Exposure to SBV can result in relatively mild conditions in cattle and sheep but where infection takes place during the early stages of pregnancy, it can result in congenital disorders of lambs and calves. Infection may also be linked to poor breeding performance.

With the confirmation that the virus has arrived in Scotland, NFU Scotland is urging cattle and sheep producers to remain vigilant and discuss the implications for their stock with their vet.

Approval for a vaccine is believed to be imminent and farmers, in discussion with their vet, can look at breeding strategies that minimise the risk. NFU Scotland, with SRUC and Biobest, have already put in place a surveillance plan that will monitor a network of dairy farms in Scotland for the presence of SBV antibodies in their milk.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “The confirmation that SBV has been active in South West Scotland is a disappointment but not a surprise and the disease now presents a genuine risk to Scottish cattle and sheep this year.

"The crucial thing now is for Scottish livestock farmers to speak to their vets and give serious consideration as to how they minimise any impact that the virus may have on their cattle and sheep."

SBV is not a notifiable disease in the UK but can be destructive. Climatic variation can limit virus spread because of how midges are effected.

Government officials have pledged to continue the monitoring effort and will the SRUC and Biobest Laboratories to track the virus’ progress across Scotland.

Further Reading

Find out more information on Schmallenberg by clicking here.


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