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No Schmallenberg Cases Reported in Scotland So Far This Year - Farmers Advised to Speak to Their Vets

Published Wednesday, 14th May 2014 in Veterinary Services news

Sheep and lambs

Monitoring by vets from Scotland’s Rural College indicates that so far this year there have been no cases of Schmallenberg virus infection (SBV) amongst Scotland’s new born calves and lambs.

Up to 1 May 2014 the various veterinary surveillance centres operated by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services had received some suspect cases but all have tested negative.

“In 2013 there were cases of SBV diagnosed in Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire," says Colin Mason, Veterinary Centre Manger in Dumfries. “It was expected that the disease might spread on further during the second half of 2013 with deformed calves and lambs being born in the first 6 months of 2014. However discussions with veterinary practitioners working in areas where confirmed cases were seen last year suggests there have been no new cases so far this spring.”

Schmallenberg virus is related to a known virus called Akabane, which is spread by midges and which classically causes brain defects and foetal malformations, particularly deformities of the limbs of new born calves and lambs. The effects can be variable with some farms suffering high lamb or calf mortality while other herds or flocks suffer few effects. SBV was first detected near Schmallenberg in Germany in 2011 but subsequently spread into other parts of Europe and was first reported in the south of England early in 2012. The first confirmed case of Schmallenberg disease in Scotland was identified on a Dumfriesshire farm in March 2013.  

In addition to the information from SAC Consulting Veterinary Services and feedback from local veterinary practices the results of NFU Scotland-funded tests of milk taken from dairy herd bulk tanks across Scotland during 2013 found no evidence of SBV exposure throughout 2013.

According to Colin Mason:

“These three separate indicators would suggest that there has been very limited spread of SBV throughout Scotland in 2013. It’s surprising, given the mild autumn and winter we experienced. But so far it seems the risk of SBV infection establishing throughout Scotland remains low.”

Colin suggests these indicators should be taken into account by veterinary practitioners and farmers when considering future SBV vaccination strategies, particularly ahead of the main beef suckler herd breeding season starting in June 2014. However he stresses no one should assume the disease is no longer a threat, with a need for continued vigilance in case of outbreaks in Europe or other parts of the UK.

SRUC acknowledges the support of Scottish Government through the Veterinary and Advisory Services (VAS) programme.

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