Many cases of the virus that causes serious defects and stillbirths in newborn calves and lambs have been confirmed in farms in Wiltshire, Cornwall, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex. 700 cases have been reported in Europe. The UK cases may be just the tip of the iceberg. It is possible that many animals were infected in eastern England in the autumn of 2011, and the virus was probably transmitted to them by midges, arriving from Europe at that time. All of the English counties where SBV infection has been identified are in the zones recognised as potentially at risk from infected midges which were blown across from affected areas in northern mainland Europe, last summer. The key to the long-term impact of the disease on British livestock is likely to be whether the midges that carried the disease last year survive the winter. If they do, they may spread and cause further disease this year.
Signs of illness in adult stock are not specific and may not be seen. Infected pregnant animals are at risk of producing offspring with considerable congenital damage, especially twisted legs, brain damage and abnormal jaws. Such animals are not viable, and present a serious economic loss to affected farms. Lambing and calving of these abnormal young, may well need Veterinary assistance. Most cases have been seen in lambs so far, but calf cases may yet be seen, as spring calving approaches. In GB affected flocks, 2 to 25% of lambs have been affected, although in Germany up to 40% have been reported.
Diagnosis is only possible with virus tests on the deformed foetus. There is currently no diagnostic blood test in adult or young stock, but researchers aim to develop one shortly. Knowledge about this disease is developing, and many questions on immunity, carrier animals and midge infection remain unanswered as yet. There is no vaccine.
The Department is urging the Island's animal keepers to remain vigilant. Please report suspicious birth defects to your private Veterinary Surgeon for testing through AHVLA.
For advice for pregnant women to avoid close contact with animals that are giving birth please see the DEFRA page in related links.
We do not expect infected midges to have arrived on the Island, but recently imported animals should be monitored at lambing or calving. SBV is not currently notifiable.
For further information please contact:
Thie Slieau Whallian
+44 1624 685844