Wednesday, December 19th 2012 - 01:33 UTC

Schmallenberg disease hitting lambs and calves spreads to all England and Wales

A disease that can lead to lambs and calves being stillborn or deformed has spread to every county in England and Wales. Some farmers are expected to lose livestock during the lambing season, which is just getting underway.

The disease causes severe deformities in lambs and calves born to infected mothers

Schmallenberg virus was first detected in the UK earlier this year in the south and east of England. It has spread rapidly during the summer, probably through midges, say government scientists.

“We've seen quite rapid geographic spread,” the government's Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, told the BBC.

“That means a lot of herds and flocks will have been exposed to the disease. The likelihood is that many of them won't show disease because they weren't infected at the right time to show disease.

”Some will - in those herds and flocks we expect an impact of 2-5% of their lambs and calves.“

Schmallenberg causes severe deformities in lambs and calves born to infected mothers, but adults usually recover quickly. Cases have been documented on 976 farms in England and Wales, compared with 276 in August.

However, officials believe the true number of cases is higher. The first sign is often when livestock give birth to deformed or dead young - which can be months after the infection has occurred.

In areas where the disease has been found, the number of infected flocks and herds is likely to be ”very high“, said Mr Gibbens.

Alasdair Cook, head of endemic food-borne zoo-noses at the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agencies, said farmers should be vigilant for signs of infection, particularly when livestock are giving birth.

”The infection has been transmitted through the whole of England and Wales, effectively, up to the Scottish borders,” he said.

The new emerging livestock disease was identified late last year, near the German town of Schmallenberg. It has since been detected in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

It is believed the virus was carried to England by midges blown across the Channel and was then spread by native midges during the summer.

Evidence from Europe suggests that around 6% of infected sheep flocks (and 4% of infected cattle herds) will suffer symptoms from the disease, which is only dangerous when it is passed to the unborn lamb or calf. Flocks that are infected should expect to lose between 2% and 5% of lambs.

There is a low likelihood of any risk to public health, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. A vaccine is being developed, which if proved safe and effective, could be available in the UK in time for next year's lambing season, said Mr Gibbens. (BBC).

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1 HoldthePhone (#) Dec 19th, 2012 - 12:23 pm Report abuse
I have no idea what this has to do with Latin America.
2 redpoll (#) Dec 19th, 2012 - 05:43 pm Report abuse
Sorry hold, but it does and as a farmer I am worried that it will spread here. The Europeans are very strict about animal health standards in South America but are very sloppy about controlling thier own research stations. This latest disease “escaped” from a research station in Germany. The last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in UK emanated from a research laboratory in Kent. Not to mention the feeding of sheeps brains infected with scrapie to cattle which created BSE and its related human diseases which killed a number of people. Well out here we dont allow those sloppy practices to kill people
3 Nostrolldamus The 3rd (#) Dec 19th, 2012 - 08:49 pm Report abuse
Just another day in disease-ridden Europe.
4 aussie sunshine (#) Dec 20th, 2012 - 02:08 am Report abuse
The uk is not Europe..or at least they do not want to be part of the EU.
5 reality check (#) Dec 20th, 2012 - 08:14 am Report abuse
Ah, it's all Europes fault! now there's a suprise!
6 HoldthePhone (#) Dec 20th, 2012 - 12:24 pm Report abuse
@2 Redpoll, more what I meant was this virus diffusion vector appears to be the midge. Also I am not aware of even a minor trade in live animals between the UK and Latin America it is not clear how it would be able to spread to Latin America in the first place. If I am wrong I would be genuinely interested in know what trade takes place btw a a farmers son. Otherwise I wouldn't get too worried.

As for the latter part I have some basic knowledge of bio-security in research facilities and the difficulty of controlling materials (virus, bacterium etc) that you can't easily detect, this means it is not unsurprising that these things eventually happen. The book Normal Accidents by Charles Perrow is a brilliant one for highlighting the fallibility of systems that we assume safe because they are shrouded in the authority of technology and science which created them.
7 redpoll (#) Dec 20th, 2012 - 04:44 pm Report abuse
Yes hold I would agree with most of what you posted. Ok the vector may be a midge but that doesnt excuse the research station from releasing the virus, bacteria, prion, call it what you will, in the first place. You are right The livestock trade from Europe to South America is non existent but animal semen is imported and has been prohibited for the possibility that the BSE prion may exist in the semen
The export of live sheep and cattle to Turkey, Jordan and at one time Libia from here is a fact of life
On another tack the present slaughter policy by Defra in case of FMD is just crazy. I remember well the stink of burning carcasses in Cumbria. Nobody ever died from FMD withthe exception of some of my colleagues in Uk who commited suicide. Why the hell dont you just vaccinate against the disease.We do and we get pretty good prices for the beef and lamb on the international markets
The problem is similar to a supposed outbreak of smallpox, now eliminated world wide. If it comes back, compulsory euthanasia for the victims and thier families and the crematoriums would be busy
Sorry to be so negative in this season of goodwill and humanity, but I think Defra policy is wrong. They should address the diseases transmitable to humans like leptosirosis and hydatic cyst, prevalent in some sheepdogs, paticularly in Wales
8 HoldthePhone (#) Dec 21st, 2012 - 12:43 pm Report abuse
The slaughter policy of Defra with regards to FMD I believe stems from both the fact that it is incurable in the animals themselves, massively diminishes their animal health and welfare as after the initial infection and sores heal, but the virus lays dormant and can reoccur, alongside reducing their productivity, more so for cows than sheep. It is also highly infectious meaning any new healthy animals brought onto the farm or possibly within proximity to a carrier farm would potentially be infected by the stock of disease within the national herd.

As far as human health, bird flu or pig flu did not exist until recently, due to close working conditions and repeated exposure to these viruses by poultry and pig farm workers, the virus mutated something viruses are prone to do and in the case of pig flu at least became human to human transferable.

As for the massive overkill in the 2001 outbreak, it was due to government not taking the outbreak seriously or instigating the correct preventative measures quickly followed by a massive over reaction due to poor assumptions with regards to how rapidly and far the disease could spread.

As for vaccination, a vaccination only lasts for a certain number of months not years, and only protects against one form of the disease which (common cold for instance) are prone to continual mutation meaning it is by no means a safe guard. Secondly countries designated FMD-free without vaccination have the greatest access to export markets.

With regards to research stations I stand by my last point in that bio-security when dealing with viruses and bacterium is highly difficult and 'leaks' are ultimately inevitable. The problem is as a society we have been lulled into a sense of security that we shouldn't have when it comes to our belief in our ability to handle these things safely.
9 redpoll (#) Dec 21st, 2012 - 05:39 pm Report abuse
Phone on hold I would agree with some of your comments. But I still think Defras policy is lunacy
I agree you cant vaccinate against FMD with one vaccination.We do it twice a year and any out of season calves have to be injected at four months of age and its very strictly controlled. Yes I have some reservations as they have eliminated the virus C from the vaccine. Look you the attitude of Defra and the Farmers Union in Uk is just kill anything which is a threat. The controversy about badgers and bovine TB. Instead of murdering them why not just catch them up and give them the Stain 19 vaccination,? Probably there is a more advanced vaccine today. The ones that escape vaccination are going to die of TB anyway and so the remainder is a healthy stock and no threat to the cattle stock. Impossible? No it aint. The repatriation of the hedgehog population from the Hebrides because as an invasive species they were seriously damaging the ecology of those islands is a success story. So Defra needs to think differently
The proliferation of urban foxes is also worrying. It just needs one to get infected with rabies and you will have a major problem in UK
10 British_Kirchnerist (#) Dec 24th, 2012 - 04:40 pm Report abuse
What a shame =(

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