Farmers on alert in new virus scare

FARMERS are being urged to be vigilant after a new virus was found in a sheep in East Sussex.

The new animal disease, called Schmallenberg Virus, causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock.

The disease first emerged in the Netherlands and Germany last year, causing mild to moderate symptoms in adult cattle, including reduced milk yield and diarrhoea, and late abortions and birth deformities in newborn sheep, goats and cattle.

There are now four confirmed cases in the UK – two in Norfolk, one in Suffolk and one in East Sussex. All four cases in the UK have affected sheep.

The information has been released by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) but they will not release information about the exact location of the diseased animals.

Local dairy farmer Phil Hook from Longley’s Farm in Hailsham said it was important he and others were vigilant.

He said, “This is spread by midges and at the moment, the temperature is not hot enough for midges to be a problem.

“However, with lambing season coming up farmers should be vigilant and get the vet to check any stillbirths or deformities .

“It is a new virus and there is no vaccination at the moment because they do not know enough about it.

“There are only four cases in the UK at the moment and they are hoping to nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem.”

An AHVLA spokesperson said, “We carry out constant surveillance for animal disease and specifically asked farmers and vets to remain vigilant after reports Schmallenberg Virus was present in Europe.

“Initial tests have identified a small number of cases in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex.

“The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control say it is unlikely it would cause disease in humans. We will continue working closely with the farming and vet industries.”