A call for the Schmallenberg virus vacine is necessary after examining last years virus statistics.
The Schmallenberg Virus is a new emerging livestock disease that has been detected in Belgium,Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
It is similar to some other animal disease pathogens, such as Akabane and Shamonda viruses, which are transmitted by vectors, such as midges, mosquitoes and ticks. The virus has been associated with brief mild/moderate disease (milk drop, pyrexia, diarrhoea) in adult cattle and late abortion or birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.
The disease has spread across England and Wales to the Scottish border region and has now been confirmed on more than 1,000 UK farms. Although it is still being recognised by Defra and the European Commission as 'low impact' on a national scale, the cost for individual businesses can run into thousands of pounds. It comes at the same time as lamb prices have hit their lowest level for three years and livestock producers are facing rising production costs due to the extreme weather in 2012.
In 2012 AHVLA (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) introduced two enhanced surveillance initiatives for Schmallenberg Virus inEnglandandWales, in January 2012 for foetal deformities and in July 2012 for acute disease in cattle. Both surveillance initiatives were based on free testing of cases that met certain criteria in previously unaffected counties. As Schmallenberg Virus had been identified in most counties of England and Wales by the end of 2012, the enhanced surveillance had served the purpose for which it was introduced: to identify cases in previously unaffected areas as early as possible.
Geographically, Bedfordshire statistics were very low with only 2 cases among sheep holdings, one being through serology and one through fetal malformation. However Devon alone had the highest number of cases, there were a total number of 126 cases, with 28 of those being sheep holdings and 98 being cattle. Within these 98, two were identified through fetal malformation, four through acute disease and 92 through Serology. Obviously these statistics are all historic based on last years data and there is likely to be a new outbreak this year with a much higher serological prevalence.
This number of cases calls for the urgent need for a vaccine to be made readily available later this year to help combat the spread of the deadly Schmallenberg virus.
The call comes as many farms with early lambing flocks across the country have experienced higher than normal losses with still births and deformities ranging from fused limbs to twisted necks.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe, a sheep farmer in Leicestershire, has seen Schmallenberg in his own flock. He said concern was growing across the industry and that a vaccine must be made available to give farmers the ability to safeguard future lamb crops.
"Any infection present on a farm now will have taken place last year and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate issues at the moment. But it is important that a vaccine is made available this year to give our sheep farmers the choice of whether to vaccinate their flocks against this disease.
"The other issue to address is a lack of official data to see how things are developing. We are therefore working closely with Eblex, AHVLA and other industry organisations on a lambing survey which will be released shortly and that I would urge sheep farmers to complete."
The Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but farmers are asked to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or fetuses which are stillborn, show malformations or are showing nervous disease. Veterinary surgeons should then contact their local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if they suspect infection with the virus.