FROM four farms in January, to 29 in February, Schmallenberg virus has now been identified on 58 farms.

And, from six counties last week, it now affects ten. The virus is known to infect and cause disease in sheep, cattle and goats.

Although the mode of transmission has not been confirmed, it is suspected that midges are the culprits.

Symptoms include abnormalities in newborn animals, which may be born alive, dead at term or aborted following infection of the mother. Malformations observed to date include bent limbs, fixed joints (arthrogryposis) and brain deformities (spaces filled with fluid in cerebral hemispheres, abnormally small parts such as the cerebellum and brainstem) and marked damage to the spinal cord. Some animals are born with a normal outer appearance but have nervous signs such as a “dummy” presentation or blindness, ataxia, recumbency, an inability to suck and, sometimes, fits.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency is keeping its website regularly updated at As the Journal goes to press, incidences have been found in Wiltshire (one), Hampshire (one) and Cornwall (one) as well as eight other eastern counties. There is speculation that the case in Cornwall was windborne from northern France, where there are several outbreaks, whereas the outbreak in the eastern counties is thought to have arrived from Holland and Belgium. At present it is a non-notifiable disease and, as yet, there is no treatment or vaccine available for this disease, as it is relatively “new”

and further work is needed to determine what control measures may be appropriate. However, livestock owners are advised to contact their vets if they suspect cases of ruminant neonates or foetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease. Vets are then advised to contact their AHVLA/SAC laboratory.

Livestock owners with suspected or confirmed cases should be assured that they will be treated with confidentiality and their identities will not be made public.