Have you heard of Schmallenberg??? Here is our need to know guide to the Virus Written By Ally Anderson

Schmallenberg is a new virus which affects cattle and sheep. It was first found in Europe in 2011 and is named after the German town where it was first identified. Since then it has spread west across Europe reaching the UK in January 2012 and the virus has now been identified in nearly all counties in England. It is likely that the virus is spread by wind-blown insects although there is not currently any data on the spread pattern of in-contact animals. A Europe-wide risk assessment has shown it is very unlikely this disease can cause illness in humans, however usual hygiene precautions should be taken.

Clinical Signs:

In cattle the most common signs are fever, reduced milk yield, inappetence, loss of body condition and diarrhoea. Outbreaks tend to last 2-3 weeks with individual cows recovering over a few days. There have not been any clinical signs reported in adult sheep.
The most noticeable aspect of the disease is the effect on the foetus when the dam is infected during pregnancy. Depending on the timing of infection the dam may abort or carry a deformed foetus to full term which may or may not be alive at birth. Malformations include bent limbs, fixed joints, brain deformities and spinal cord damage. Some animals may appear normal but may be blind, have seizures or be unable to suck or stand.

Treatment and Control:

As foetal malformations are the most common problem associated with this disease it is important not to use excessive force during calving and lambing. This is particularly important when the joints are fused as it will not be possible to flex the legs into the correct position and a caesarean may be the best option. Any lambs that are born alive but have severe deformities should be euthanased.

There is currently no treatment or vaccination for Schmallenberg.

Other diseases causing similar clinical signs in calves:

  • BVD
  • Hypoxia and intra-cranial haemorrhage due to dystocia
  • Bacterial meningitis

Other diseases causing similar clinical signs in lambs:

  • Border disease
  • Toxomplasmosis
  • Hypoxia and intra-cranial haemorrhage due to dystocia
  • Starvation / exposure / hypothermia
  • Septicaemia
  • Bacterial meningitis

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