Cases of new livestock virus rise

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THE number of cases of the livestock disease Schmallenberg virus in Norfolk and Suffolk has risen over the past month.

But the rate has been slowing down and the two counties are no longer among the worst affected.

Figures published by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) on Monday show Suffolk has now had 12 sheep and five cattle cases reported, which is three more cattle cases than on March 2. Norfolk has now had 16 sheep and four cattle cases reported, which is two more sheep and one in cattle more than a month ago.

But while the disease, which causes birth deformities in lambs and calves, was first confirmed in Suffolk, Norfolk and East Sussex in four sheep on January 23, Kent is now the worst hit county with 41 cases, one more than East Sussex.

Nationally, figures have risen from 92 cases in 14 counties in March to 238 in 24 counties on April 2. There has even been one case reported in Greater London.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is named after the German town in which it was first identified late last year. It is thought to be spread by midges and mosquitoes and there is no vaccine. When animals first catch it, it shows as a minor illness but when those animals give birth, the young are seriously deformed and it is not known if the effect is permanent.

It is not a notifiable disease, but the AHVLA and farming bodies are asking farmers to have report cases to their vets so a track can be kept on its spread.