FARMERS across Co Down will be keeping a close eye on their livestock following the detection of a malformed calf with the Schmallenberg virus.
DARD has confirmed that tests conducted in Co Down on the calf by the Agri-Food and Bio-Sciences Institute (AFBI) have identified the presence of SBV. Another calf from the same herd, while testing negative for SBV, displayed signs consistent with those associated with the disease.
The virus can affect all ruminant species and has been particularly evident in cattle and sheep populations. Scientific evidence from Europe suggests that the virus is spread by midges. If the virus is present in the local midge population then it is likely that there will be further cases. The virus can affect all ruminant species and has been particularly evident in cattle and sheep populations. In sheep few if any signs are exhibited. If ruminant animals should become infected when pregnant, it can lead to abortion or malformations in the foetus.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This is the first case of the disease detected in the North. Yesterday the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine in Dublin reported the first case in the South, in Co Cork. These developments are unsurprising, given the rapid spread of the virus across northern Europe and large parts of Britain since it was first identified in late 2011.
“While Schmallenberg Virus is recognised as a low impact disease, I appreciate the distress that it causes at an individual farm level. Any losses as a result of this disease are regrettable. I would encourage farmers if they suspect presence of the disease to contact their veterinary practitioner. Suspect cases that meet the clinical case definition will be investigated by AFBI.”
There are no human health implications associated with the disease, nor any food safety implications. The virus itself gives rise to only mild symptoms in cattle which are transient including fever, drop in milk yield and sometimes diarrhoea.
There is currently no commercially-available vaccine for Schmallenberg virus, however, several veterinary pharmaceutical companies are working on developing SBV vaccines although it is not known when they will available to farmers.
Schmallenberg virus was first detected in Germany in late 2011. Since then the virus has been reported in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. Austria, Finland, Poland and Sweden have also recently reported evidence of SBV infection.