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Health & Welfare Bulletin No. 37 : Schmallenberg Virus

What appears to be a new virus has been discovered in the North Rhein Westphalia district of the west of Germany, and in Holland.  It has been named Schmallenberg virus after the small town where it was first discovered.

Outbreaks of disease were originally seen in cattle last August. Clinical signs exhibited by affected cattle included
fever, reduced milk yields, inappetance, weight loss and diarrhoea: since November, there have been reports in sheep (and, to a lesser extent, cattle and goats) of abortion, still-births and congenital abnormalities. These congenital abnormalities have included limb contractures, brain abnormalities and twisted neck: no clinical signs were reported affecting dams of these offspring. No cases of the disease have been reported in camelids, and it is unknown whether or not they can be affected.

Research on the virus is still in its early stages but the virus is thought to belong to the genus
Orthobunyavirus: this group includes the Akabane virus and although antibodies to Akabane virus have been found in camels, it is not known whether or not it causes disease (Al Busaidy et al, 1988; Davies & Jessett, 1985). Viruses of this genus are spread by arthropod vectors – midges and mosquitoes. No information is available for viruses of this group affecting South American Camelids. Therefore it is unknown whether or not they are likely to be affected with clinical disease. It is certainly possible that they are susceptible.

It has to be stressed that this virus has
not yet been detected in the UK. There is potential for it to come to the UK via windborne spread of athropod vectors that carry the virus (as occurred with Bluetongue), or potentially via imported animals. Disease surveillance is ongoing and keepers of livestock are being urged to monitor for signs of disease and consult with their vet in case of concern.

AHVLA have asked that if  any ruminants  imported from anywhere in Europe during 2011 abort, or have stillborn or deformed offspring, please report the matter to your local AHVLA laboratory, or SAC laboratory if in Scotland.  In England, ruminant samples will be taken for testing free of charge, although as tests for the disease are still under development, results will not be known immediately. Be sure to check with your local office whether charges will apply for camelids before submitting any crias for testing. In Scotland, the normal SAC charges will apply.

Similarly, if  there are ANY aborted foetuses or stillborn animals which match the pattern of deformities described, please discuss them with AHVLA to see if samples should be taken for investigation, in particular if born to dams who had what would have been an undiagnosable fever in the late summer or early autumn. Again, to avoid embarrassment, discuss what charges might be made, if any, when discussing things with AHVLA.



Since this virus has only just been identified and the epidemiology and pathogenesis of the disease is far from known, this situation is evolving and further information will be forthcoming as more research is done. AHVLA will keep updating the information available on their website as more becomes known. [].
It will be particularly important for us in the UK later in the year when we shall see if infected midges have crossed the North Sea, and this will depend on weather patterns during the summer.  However it is POSSIBLE that infected midges could have crossed to England during 2011 although there were only a few days where this was considered to have been a possibility. As yet there is no evidence of this having happened, but please be on the lookout.  This is a new disease, and hopefully we will develop a far better understanding of the epidemiological risk to the UK over the next 12 months.

Please do not panic. This is a very new virus and as previously stated, there have been no cases notified in Camelids but it is better to be aware of the unfolding situation.
I would like to acknowledge the following vets for assisting in producing this report:
Claire E Whitehead BVM&S MS DACVIM MRCVS, President British Veterinary Camelid Society
Nick Clayton, MRCVS

Vice Chairman BLS & Health & Welfare Representative
Nutfield Park Farm, South Nutfield, REDHILL, Surrey Tel: 01737-823375

NOTE: 23 January 2012
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency has confirmed that tests on animals on four sheep farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex had detected Schmallenberg Virus.
Please report any abnormalities in your herd to your vet.