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Wild deer could be a "reservoir" for Schmallenberg
Scientists believe farm virus could affect wild animals

European scientists have raised concerns that the livestock virus Schmallenberg has been found in wild animals, which could act as a "reservoir" of infection.

Dr Mutien-Marie Garigliany, a veterinary expert at the Universite de Liege in Belgium is part of a team of experts studying cases of SBV in wildlife. As a result of their research, which suggests wild animals such as roe and red deer are affected by the virus, Dr Garigliany has called for "specific surveillance of wild animals for SBV."

Whilst it is believed wild deer can catch the virus, the affect of them and their offspring is as yet unknown. Dr Rachael Tarlinton, a virology expert and veterinary scientist at the University of Nottingham, said "we know wild deer get the virus [because] they produce antibodies to it. But deer have a different placental structure to cows and sheep - so we don't know if it gets across the placenta to affect foetuses."

According to Professor Trevor Drew of the UK government's Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, the virus can infect native red deer, fallow deer, sika deer and roe deer. Speaking to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, Professor Drew raised the difficulties faced with controlling Schmallenberg, a virus passed by bites from midges and other insects.

"It is just impossible to control midges across an area the size of Europe. Even if we had some national campaign, it would be quite simple that the midges would be blown over and of course we cannot control the disease in wild deer."

The huge financial impact of Schmallenberg on some farms is well known, with research from the University of Nottingham suggesting losses as high as 30 per cent in some infected flocks. While speaking to the select committee, the UK's deputy chief veterinary officer Alick Simmons noted that while a vaccine against SBV is not yet available, several are in development.

"This is a disease which we believe will either through vaccination or through natural spread become less of a problem over time," he told the committee. "And already in the areas we have been affected in northern Europe and to a certain extent in the south east of England, the disease is less than it was last year."

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Wales to ban third party puppy and kitten sales

News Story 1
 The Welsh Government has said it will ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, after a consultation showed overwhelming public support.

A consultation in February received nearly 500 responses, most of whom called for greater action to improve the welfare of cats and dogs at all breeding premises.

Concerns were also raised about online sales, impulse buying, breeder accountability and illegal puppy imports.

A consultation will now be held on plans to implement a ban. Environment minister Lesley Griffiths said she will also revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions.  

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WHO declares Congo Ebola outbreak an international health emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The move comes after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC. The committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma - a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The committee also reinforced the need to protect the livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.