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TWO possible scenarios for the future spread of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in the UK were discussed by experts in the fields of epidemiology and vectorborne diseases at a briefing held in London on March 1.
Peter Mertens, research leader on the vectorborne diseases programme at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), explained that, since animals that had already been infected would be protected from further infection, the virus could potentially burn itself out in its distribution area. However, if the virus managed to survive the winter months – during which time there were no insect vectors to transmit it – it had the potential to reinfect the vector population and other host animals, causing another outbreak of disease.
He pointed out that, if the virus was transmitted again this year, the animals on the edges of the areas that had been infected previously would be most at risk because they would not have built up immunity to it.
Although infected adult animals only showed mild clinical signs, such as milk drop and diarrhoea, if they had been infected during a critical period of pregnancy, it could have serious effects on the development of the fetus. The deformed fetuses that were being seen now were ‘last year's story’, he said. They were all the result of infections that had occurred in 2011 during fetal development.
Matthew Baylis, head of the epidemiology division at the University of Liverpool, elaborated on …