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L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

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Schmallenberg virus confirmed

23 March 2012

The States Veterinary Officer has received confirmation of the presence of Schmallenberg virus in the Island.

The virus was found in samples submitted by the department to the national Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) last week following a call from the vet of a local sheep flock owner who was experiencing a difficult lambing. The animals in Jersey which are susceptible to the virus are cattle, sheep and goats.

States Veterinary Officer Linda Lowseck said that livestock owners who were concerned for the welfare of their herds and flocks, particularly when lambing and calving, should contact their own vet.

Mrs Lowseck said “Following earlier discussions with the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society (RJA&HS), arrangements have been made for a speaker from the AHVLA to come to Jersey and give a presentation on Schmallenberg Virus on Tuesday 10 April. Invitations will be distributed to all livestock keepers and vets.

“Evidence from the UK to date indicates that the percentage of animals affected in individual flocks or herds is not high.”

Mrs Lowseck said that the virus was likely to have been introduced to Jersey by windborne midges last autumn when affected ewes were in the early stages of pregnancy.

Consultant Microbiologist for Health and Social Services Dr Ivan Muscat said that while the virus was new, and its effects continue to be studied, there is no evidence to date to indicate that it causes, or is likely to cause, human disease or effect pregnant women or their babies adversely.

“The Schmallenberg virus was only identified in late 2011 following investigation of animal disease earlier that year. Acute human disease has not been detected in any potentially exposed individuals in the affected areas. Closely related viruses that have been recognised for some time, and that cause a similar clinical picture in animals, have not been shown to cause disease in humans,” he said.

This new disease of ruminants (a cud-chewing mammal) was first reported in Germany and the Netherlands late last year and in keeping with convention, the causal virus has been named after the area where it was first identified. There are no preventive measures but research is underway across Europe to discover more about the virus and develop tests to disclose which animals have immunity.

The potential impacts for owners are:

  • loss of lambs, calves and kids born deformed or non-viable
  • loss of dams humanely destroyed on welfare grounds
  • loss or temporary suspension of export trade (particularly bovine embryos)
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