NFU calls for field test and vaccine to tackle SBV

A RAPID field test to identify animals infected with the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) and a vaccine to protect vulnerable livestock must be available as quickly as possible, the National Farmers’ Union has urged.

NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones met European Commission officials and farm leaders from across Europe to discuss the spread of SBV or Schmallenberg virus at the EU’s animal health advisory committee in Brussels.

Mr Jones, who is also the vice chairman of Copa’s animal health and welfare group which represents all EU farming unions, said collaborative action would be essential to stamp out the disease.

“This deadly disease is spread by midges that have no respect for Member State boundaries, it is therefore important that we work together with our neighbours to share information and technology to stop its spread,” said Mr Jones.

“The number of livestock infected with the virus continues to rise – there are now nearly 800 confirmed cases across five countries – but we still have no on-farm test and no vaccine to protect our animals.

The latest figures reveal that there have been 39 cases in eastern and south England, including 10 in Norfolk and 11 in Suffolk, plus one case in cattle in west Sussex, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. The first case in Britain was identified by a Norfolk veterinary surgeon late last month.

Mr Jones, added: “In the short term we are encouraging farmers to continue to check their animals and report any suspicious symptoms to their vet, the more information available the quicker a solution can be found.

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“But in the longer term the focus in the EU must be to work together to develop a field test to identify the virus rapidly and a vaccine for farmers to protect their livestock from future outbreaks.

“I have also stressed to my colleagues and EU officials the need for us to continue to communicate exactly where the disease is emerging so that we can track the trajectory and speed of its spread across Europe.”

Reacting to the trade ban already put in place by some countries outside of the EU, Mr Jones said: “The Commission must communicate to consumers both within the EU and outside that the Schmallenberg virus poses no risk to human health.”