2013-07-01   facebook twitter rss
Study Shows High Exposure to Schmallenberg Virus on Northern Ireland Farms

Farms in Northern Ireland have a much higher exposure to the Schmallenberg virus than originally thought, according to the results of a study carried out in recent months.

The study was carried out by the AFBI (Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute) at Stormont and sponsored by MSD Animal Health. It involved tests on 601 herds across all 10 district veterinary office (DVO) regions in the north.

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The results showed that 11% of herds tested positive for the virus. However, there was huge variation in the level of exposure between DVO regions. The Newry and Newtownards regions in the south east had by far the highest exposure, with 48% and 38% respectively of farms involved testing positive to the virus.

Exposure in five other regions was at lower levels, ranging from 2% to 13% while the remaining three regions, Enniskillen, Ballymena and Omagh, had no herds exposed to the virus.

Mairead O Grady of MSD Animal Health said that while just four cases of Schmallenberg have been diagnosed in Northern Ireland to date, this study shows that the risk of infection is much higher and, based on the experience in the UK, farmers across the north are in real danger of being infected with the virus.

“In the UK, the first case was identified in the south east of England in early 2012 and by the end of March last it was identified in around 1,800 farms across all counties of England and Wales.

“The first case in Northern Ireland was on a farm in Banbridge, Co Down in October 2012. Three further cases have since been confirmed on farms near Downpatrick and Newry,” said Mairead O Grady.

She said there is a strong likelihood of the virus spreading across Northern Ireland this summer. Midges, which spread the disease, are at their most potent between April and November and can travel at least 20 miles a day.

“The disease can cause abortions and deformities in calves and lambs. The critical risk period for cows is between days 40 and 140 of pregnancy and for sheep between days 20 and 80 of pregnancy. The most seriously affected farms in England had more than 50% of lambs with foetal abnormalities.

“While insecticides such as Butox are effective in controlling midges, they cannot be relied on to prevent midges from transmitting the virus. Vaccination is the only effective option for the control of the disease. Bovilis SBV is the only vaccine for the control of Schmallenberg in cattle and sheep. The recommended dosage is one 2ml injection subcutaneously in sheep three weeks prior to mating and two 2ml injections four weeks apart in cows.

MSD Animal Health

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