Warning as new disease hits sheep

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VETS and farmers are being urged to check sheep and cattle for a new virus spread from the continent by insects.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) has confirmed that Schmallenberg virus (SBV) has been detected on four sheep farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex.

It believes the animals were infected during the summer, but the disease only shows at that stage as a minor illness with diarrhoea. However, it causes deformities in lambs, calves and goat kids so the cases came to light as lambing started. The AHVLA warns that camelids, including lamas and alpaccas, may also be vulnerable.

The AHVLA has warned for some time that East Anglia and the South East might be vulnerable to SBV, which is carried by mosquitos and gnats and is found in wildlife and livestock in mainland Europe.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says that though SBV is not a notifiable disease vets, who are aware of suspicious clinical signs on their client’s farms should report them to AHVLA for further investigation.

Carl Padgett, president of the BVA, warned: “Although the risk of zoonosis [passing to humans] is believed to be very low it has not been ruled out and a sensible precautionary approach should be taken by those handling infected animals and specimens.”