Warning over new viral disease threat to livestock

Scottish livestock farmers have been alerted to look out for a new viral disease which causes foetal malformations in cattle, sheep and goats.

Brian Hosie, veterinary services manager with the Scottish Agricultural College, said last night that the warning follows the detection of “Schmallenberg virus” (SBV) in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium; the first time this disease has surfaced in northern Europe.

Hosie has written to vet practices and farmers in Scotland asking them to report incidences of limb and brain defects in new-born animals and foetuses.

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“We want to fully investigate certain types of limb and brain defects in new-born ruminants and foetuses. Specifically, contractures that are present at birth that result in reduced mobility of several limb joints. In severe cases, limbs and the spine also may be twisted.

“The brain damage caused by this virus is severe and results in blindness and lack of brain function.”

He emphasised that while there was no evidence that SBV was currently present in Britain, the enhanced surveillance was necessary to ensure that, should SBV infection occur, it was detected and controlled at the earliest possible stage.

“Current evidence suggests the likelihood of incursion of this viral infection into Britain is low but heightened surveillance on the part of vets and the farming industry will allow us to further assess the risk,” he said.