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BVA says ‘step up vigilance’ after new virus detected in England




The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has reiterated its call for heightened vigilance following confirmation by AHVLA that Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has been detected on four sheep farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex.

At this early stage the virus is understood to be vector-borne (although other routes of transmission have not been ruled out) and the clinical signs seen along with meteorological modelling of risk suggests that the four farms were affected during summer/autumn 2011, with congenital defects now becoming visible at lambing time.

Animals imported from the affected areas in northern Europe are also considered to be potentially at risk and their destination in the UK has been identified.

Congenital deformities and nervous defects are seen in newborn lambs, goat kids and calves. Clinical signs in affected cattle include pyrexia (fever), milk drop, and diarrhoea similar to what is often termed ‘winter dysentery’. Farmers should be looking out for clusters of these signs within herds and flocks and reporting them to their veterinary surgeon.

Vets who are aware of suspicious clinical signs on their client’s farms should report them to AHVLA, SAC or the local DARD divisional veterinary office for further investigation.

AHVLA, SAC and DARD have stated that they are keen to investigate potential cases and there will be no extra charge for the SBV tests that are undertaken, but their approaches are slightly different.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland AHVLA and AFBI are carrying out SBV-only testing (ie to rule the disease in or out) free of charge but are charging the standard subsidised investigation charge for any additional diagnostic work.

In Scotland any carcases submitted for post mortem examinations are examined at the standard fee and all necessary examinations required by the VIO to investigate the case are included in the fee. SAC is not charging an additional fee for SBV testing.

Commenting, Carl Padgett, President of the BVA, said:

“The confirmation of Schmallenberg virus in sheep flocks in England is a reminder to vets and farmers across the UK to step up vigilance amongst ruminants.

“The BVA would encourage vets to speak to their local AHVLA, SAC or DARD team to discuss any suspect cases and consider submitting specimens for further investigation. We understand that in confirmed cases clinical signs occur in clusters and vets should ensure they know what to look for in both adult and perinatal ruminants.

“While the cases in the south east of England suggest the virus is vector-borne other potential routes of transmission are still being considered. Although the risk of zoonosis is believed to be very low it has not been ruled out and a sensible precautionary approach should be taken by those handling infected animals and specimens.”


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