MEP urges vigilance over ongoing Schmallenberg threat

A SOUTH West MEP has urged farmers to continue to be vigilant over the threat of Schmallenberg.

Julie Girling, who represents the region in Europe, said many were still contending with the effects of flooding and now faced with the continued threat of the Schmallenberg Virus (SBV).

She said: “We need to make some decisions on how to deal with this disease. Over the last few years we have become used to dealing with Bluetongue in the UK which is an entirely airborne virus spread by insects. 

“It was well known in other parts of the world and a vaccination exists, where as Schmallenberg is a relatively new virus with very little research completed on its cause and spread.

“The disease has been associated with very mild to moderate disease symptoms in adult animals and late abortion or birth defects in cattle, sheep and goats. Based on distribution of the disease and experience with similar viruses, it appears highly likely that it is transmitted between livestock by biting insects such as midges and mosquitoes.

“Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, SBV reached the South West last year and spread rapidly. A vaccine is under development but is unlikely to be available until next year’s lambing season.

“In the South West, the lambing season is just beginning so we don’t yet know the full extent of the disease’s spread this year. No illness has been reported to date in humans exposed to animals infected with Schmallenberg.”

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