Schmallenberg sheep virus ‘may have spread by domestic midges’

ANIMAL health experts say they cannot rule out the possibility that the Schmallenberg virus, a livestock disease which was recently carried from the Continent to the UK, has been spread by domestic midges.

The new non-notifiable disease, which can cause lambs and calves to be born stillborn or deformed, has now been found on 223 farms in the UK, following its discovery here in January of this year. Of these, 203 were sheep farms and the rest cattle.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency said: “We cannot rule out the possibiltiy that domestic (local) mideges may have transmitted SBV within the affected areas. Domestic midges may have been infected after biting a local animal infected last summer after incursion of continental midges.”

The outbreak has so far affected 12 sheep farms in Suffolk, 16 in Norfolk and 11 in Essex. Three cattle farms in Suffolk and four in Norfolk have also tested positive for it. In Cambridgeshire, just one sheep farm has so far been found to have the disease.