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THE ability of any interested person with a computer or smartphone to track the emergence of a novel disease is a relatively recent phenomenon. Subscribers to ProMED mail, the free, online disease reporting service provided by the International Society for Infectious Diseases (www.promedmail.org), were able to do this for the ruminant disease caused by infection with what has become known as Schmallenberg virus (SBV), named after the town in Germany where it was first recognised. A review of the reports on ProMED from late 2011 reveals a very positive picture of the various animal health authorities involved in the investigation of this novel disease. They are credited with astute clinical observation, transparency in reporting, availability and application of high-level laboratory investigative skills, the value of a viral taxonomic approach to predicting the likely behaviour and mode of transmission of a new disease, and the free and open sharing of diagnostic resources with supply of reagents and protocols.
From August 2011, an apparently novel disease of cattle characterised by fever, watery diarrhoea and loss of production was observed in Germany and the Netherlands. Occasional abortions were noted. A report on ProMED from November 15 that year described the disease, with the suggestion that it might be caused by a toxin. However, only three …
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