Solution to prevent global spread of Schmallenberg virus in livestock

Farm Forum

Following from media reports in the UK that the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) had been diagnosed in wild deer, a recent study in New Zealand Veterinary Journal describes how spread of the infection could be suppressed with tighter border controls around the world.

The infection, thought to be transmitted by arthropod vectors, primarily by biting midges, spread rapidly over large parts of North-Western Europe throughout transmission periods during 2011 and 2012. It has recently re-emerged however, at least in France, Germany and the United Kingdom and consequently spread to Austria, Finland, Poland, Switzerland and Sweden.

In most cases, the virus causes only very mild ailments such as fever and diarrhoea in cattle and sheep herds. However, severe and very rare cases have resulted in malformations in the embryo or foetus.

Amidst the mounting concerns now however, is that this emerging disease is beginning to spread to wild animals such as boar and deer. Furthermore, it is possible that farms could suffer financial deficit with losses of as many as 30% of lambs in infected flocks reported.

‘Schmallenberg virus, a novel orthobunyavirus infection in ruminants in Europe: Potential global impact and preventive measures’ discusses the characteristics, transmission and diagnosis of the disease and concludes, in accordance with the recommendations of World Organisation for Animal Health, that strict vector control measures should be implemented at international airports and harbours to avoid the introduction of SBV and similar pathogens through infected arthropods.

With no vaccine currently available, the authors of the article also conclude that metagenomic analysis should be established in national and in supranational reference laboratories or collaborating centres throughout the world, as it has been proven powerful in the detection of SBV.

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