A virus that causes fever in cattle and sheep has been detected for the first time in Northern Ireland. The Department of Agriculture said tests on a malformed calf in County Down had found traces of the Schmallenberg virus.
Schmallenberg can cause fever and diarrhea in cows and sheep. If ruminant animals become infected when pregnant, it can also cause congenital disorders, stillbirths and abortions. The virus is not thought to affect humans.
Scientific evidence from Europe suggests that the disease is spread by midges. The department warned that if Schmallenberg virus is present in the local midge population then more cases are likely to emerge.
Schmallenberg virus was first detected in Germany in late 2011. Since then the infection has been found in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Poland and Sweden. There is currently no commercially available vaccine.
Reprinted in part from Belfast Telegraph