Schmallenberg Cases Grow, Trade Affected22 March 2012
EU - The number of cases of Schmallenberg virus has been rapidly increasing since it was first discovered in Germany in November 2011, writes Charlotte Johnston, TheCattleSite editor.
There are now over 2000 cases of Schmallenberg in eight European countries.
Luxembourg, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France, and the UK have all reported cases, with the latter three being the worst hit.
What is Schmallenberg?
Schmallenberg causes congenital malformations and stillbirths in cattle, sheep and goats. Bovine adults have shown a mild form of acute disease during the vector season.
Biting midges are the confirmed culprits for spreading the virus, they also are responsible for spreading bluetongue between the same species.
ThePigSite reported that biting midges caused pig carcases to be downgraded last year in Scottish abattoirs.
The European Commission has put out a call for collaborative research on the virus.
Affect on Trade
Despite the EU saying that any trade restrictions or request for additional certification on live animals or their products due to the occurrence of Schmallenberg in the EU are disproportionate and scientifically unjustified, some countries have imposed trade sanctions.
Uruguay has announced that it will temporarily suspend the imports of genetic material from European countries and last week the US placed additional restrictions on shipments of ruminant semen and embryos (germplasm) originating from the European Union in response to schmallenberg.
However, most controversially, Russia has banned the imports of live animals, including cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, from the EU. Imports of these animal products have also been suspended.
Russia is justifying the ban on grounds of risk of bluetongue and Schmallenberg.
While the EU does not support the ban of any of the species mentioned, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli have both commented that the ban on live pig imports is completely unjust, seeing as pigs are not affected by either of the diseases.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland have all issued warnings to livestock producers to beware of the risk of importing live animals from affected areas.
Earlier this week, France announced that it would look into providing compensation for producers affected by the virus.
It has taken over two years to develop an effective bluetongue vaccine, and it would take a similar amount of time to develop one for Schmallenberg.
Until then, producers are urged to report any suspected cases of Schmallenberg to their veterinarians.
In the UK, the Institute of Animal Health is looking to develop blood tests that identify Schmallenberg antibodies. Currently the virus is difficult to identify until offpsring are born. By taking blood samples and identifying antibodies it will be possible to get a greater understanding of the virus and its movement.
Dr Peter Bates of the Veterinary Medical Entomology Consultancy says that farmers can eliminate insect breeding sites from their farm by minimising open dung heaps, unscraped slurry puddles, and old hay and straw stacks.
He also believes that an early start to insect control is essential, to reduce the risk and minimise costs.
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