A new virus is sweeping through Europe killing and deforming animal fetuses. The virus is believed spread by small, biting insects known as midges. Where I live we call these tiny bugs noseeums. Ticks and mosquitoes are also on the suspect list.
It is believed that pregnant animals were infected by biting midges in late summer or early autumn. Sheep are currently showing up as the hardest hit group, but that may only be because they give birth earlier in the spring than cattle. One goat in Italy has tested positive for the Schmallenberg Virus. The Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs(DEFRA) In the UK is maintaining monitoring of the spread of the virus there.
The hardest hit country to date has been Germany where some farmers are losing the majority of their spring lambs. Other countries reporting positives for the virus are Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, France and Luxemburg. The UK scientists speculate that the virus was transported across the Channel by winds blowing midges across late summer 2011. The disease in the UK first made itself evident in January and at least 90 farms are reporting deformed or aborted lambs to date.
There is no treatment or preventative for this new disease.
There is a great deal of uncertainty about this emerging disease. At this time it is thought that this virus will not jump the species barrier to infect humans.
Some animal viruses that have recently jumped what is thought to be a species barrier to humans
· Swine flu H1N1
· Bird flu
· Foot and mouth disease(hoof and mouth disease)
· Scrapie > Mad Cow > Jacob Creutzfeld new variant
· Brucellosis > undulant fever
· Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) > HIV
The European Commission has a fact sheet outlining the information that they have to date.