Viral disease needs action

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ALMOST since it first made an appearance in the UK, the effects of Schmallenberg disease, which can produce malformed lambs from infected ewes, has been played down.

Experts considered that infected livestock would become immune and the disease would not multiply but this week the National Sheep Association has called for the UK to look at ways of dealing with the midge-borne virus.

Phil Stocker, NSA’s chief executive, said: “Anecdotal reports from France and other areas of Europe suggest Schmallenberg might be causing more problems in its second year than expected.”

This was, he added, possibly because livestock did not develop the level of immunity anticipated.

“The lack of statistical evidence means we cannot predict if we will have an on-going problem, but the industry as a whole should be very concerned by the absence of data we have and what has been seen in some early lambing flocks,” he added.

He was concerned that UK government agencies were only collecting data on the distance the disease had spread and were not gathering any additional information once the disease had been confirmed in a county. As far as he was concerned this meant there was a “concerning lack of data on the level and scale of the problem.”

The position might change if Schmallenberg became a notifiable disease but the NSA believed such a move would not be in the interest of the industry, due to the implications it would have on trade between UK and other countries.

“It would be great if the 
government could collect this data, so we better understood the situation and how to implement control strategies,” he