Schmallenberg found in Co Down calf

Published Wednesday, 31 October 2012
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A case of Schmallenberg virus, which can cause deformities in animals, has been detected in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Schmallenberg found in Co Down calf
Cows and sheep are particularly at risk of contracting Schmallenberg Virus. (© Getty)

The Department of Agriculture (DARD) confirmed on Wednesday that tests on a malformed calf in Co Down found traces of the virus.

Another calf from the same herd tested negative for Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) but a department spokesperson said it displayed signs consistent with those associated with the disease.

SBV is especially evident in cattle and sheep, and it is believed that it is spread by midges.

DARD said if the virus is present in the local midge population then they may see further cases.

Animals which have contracted SBV can have a fever, drop in milk yield and diarrhoea. If an animal is pregnant when it becomes infected, the virus can cause the animal to abort or the foetus may be malformed.

The first case in the Republic of Ireland was reported in Co Cork on Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "This is the first case of the disease detected in the north.

"These developments are unsurprising, given the rapid spread of the virus across northern Europe and large parts of Britain since it was first identified in late 2011."

Minister O'Neill said any losses of animals because of the disease are "regrettable".

"While Schmallenberg Virus is recognised as a low impact disease, I appreciate the distress that it causes at an individual farm level.

"I would encourage farmers if they suspect presence of the disease to contact their veterinary practitioner. Suspect cases that meet the clinical case definition will be investigated by AFBI."

The virus is not thought to affect humans and there are no food safety implications.

Schmallenberg virus was first detected in Germany in late 2011. Since then the infection has been found in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland. Austria, Finland, Poland and Sweden.

There is currently no commercially-available vaccine.

© UTV News
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