Schmallenberg cases hit 92

THE number of farms identified with Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) has risen to 92, the latest figures from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency show.

The figures, released on Friday (March 2) afternoon, represent an increase of nine on the 83 cases confirmed on Monday (February 27)

They show two further cases have been identified in cattle, taking the total seven alongside 85 cases in sheep. This is in line with expectations that the number of cases seen in cattle will start to increase over the next few months.

Cattle have longer gestation periods than sheep (nine months, compared with five), meaning that more cases will appear as cows infected last autumn calve in the coming weeks and months.

Figures from infected parts of mainland Europe, including the Netherlands and France, are showing decreasing incidence in sheep and rising levels in cattle for this reason, a trend scientists expect to be seen in Britain over the coming weeks and months.

The infection is spread across 14 counties, with Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex the worst hit. The virus has reached as far west as Cornwall.

AHVLA said SBV infection had so far only been identified in areas at risk of midge incursion from Northern Europe during summer/autumn 2011.

So far, none of the affected farms have reported importing animals during 2011 from the affected areas in mainland Europe.

On Thursday Matthew Baylis, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Liverpool said the number of confirmed cases probably only represents the ‘tip of the iceberg’. He said this was because detection currently relies on finding evidence of the actual virus in animals, ‘which is difficult as viral infection is usually transitory’. 

“A better approach is to test for the antibodies that animals will have raised against the virus, and which then persist in the blood for months. However, no such serological test exists for Schmallenberg virus at present because the virus was only discovered, in Germany, a few months ago.

“When such a test is successfully developed, it is likely that much larger numbers of farms in Great Britain will be found to have been infected by the virus.”

Farming Minister Jim Paice has said the Government has no plans to make the disease notifiable. Defra and industry representatives say farmers are voluntarily reporting most cases, although some under-reporting is inevitable.

Latest figures (March 2):

CountyPositive holdings (Sheep)Positive holdings (Cattle)
Berkshire10
Cornwall10
East Sussex170
Essex50
Hampshire20
Hertfordshire40
Isle of Wight10
Kent151
Norfolk143
South Gloucestershire10
Suffolk122
Surrey20
West Sussex91
Wiltshire10
Total857

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