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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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Schmallenberg virus detected in Northern Ireland

Killer virus that causes fever in sheep and cattle was confirmed in Co Cork yesterday, the first time it has ever appeared in Ireland.

A new born lamb at Mayfield Farm, in Suffolk, England after farmer Andrew Foulds lost 75 lambs to the Schmallenberg virus in February.
A new born lamb at Mayfield Farm, in Suffolk, England after farmer Andrew Foulds lost 75 lambs to the Schmallenberg virus in February.
Image: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A VIRUS THAT can lead pregnant farm animals to abort or give birth to malformed offspring has been detected on a Co Down farm, one day after showing up in Co Cork.

The Schmallenberg Virus, which can cause fever and  diarrhoea in sheep and cattle, was confirmed in a malformed calf on the Down farm. Another calf from the same herd tested negative but has displayed signs consistent with those associated with the disease, Britain’s Department of Agriculture said.

“These developments are unsurprising, given the rapid spread of the virus across northern Europe and large parts of Britain since it was first identified”, said Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Michelle O’Neill.

“While Schmallenberg Virus is recognised as a low impact disease, I appreciate the distress that it causes at an individual farm level”.

Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) has reported 278  Schmallenberg cases, 224 in lambs and 57 in calves, since the virus first appeared on the continent in 2011.

It is not thought to affect humans says the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation says the risk posed by milk and meat is negligible.

Schmallenberg was first detected in Germany in late 2011. Since then, more than 6,000 outbreaks have been identified in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Scientific evidence points to it being spread by biting midges.

There is currently no commercially-available vaccine for the virus.

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