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Emerging Diseases
Vigilance urged as new virus emerges in livestock

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VETS and farmers in the UK are being encouraged to ensure that they are familiar with the clinical signs of Schmallenberg virus, a newly identified virus that has affected sheep, goats and cattle in Europe.

Two outbreak assessments by Defra give an indication of how the situation has developed.

In a preliminary assessment published on December 20, 2011, Defra noted that, since the summer of 2011, the Netherlands and Germany had reported outbreaks of a disease in cattle, with clinical signs including fever, loss of condition, up to a 50 per cent reduction in milk yield and, in some cases, diarrhoea. The clinical signs cleared after a few days, and the number of reports had declined. In Germany, reported cases were confined to North Rhein Westphalia, while in the Netherlands more than 80 affected farms were reported across the country.

The assessment noted that, although the cattle recovered, reports were now being received of deformities in early-stage cattle as well as sheep in the Netherlands, although no clinical signs similar to those seen in cattle had been reported in sheep. Typical deformities seen in lambs had included crooked necks, hydrocephalus and stiff joints. Most were born dead, and infected live lambs did not survive.

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