Last year, stillbirths and birth defects in lambs were shown to be caused by a previously unknown virus. It’s a vector-borne pathogen, meaning that it’s spread by an arthropod. In this case the vector is a biting midge. The new pathogen is called the Schmallenberg virus after the German town where it was first identified.
The English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) has been warning farmers about the Schmallenberg virus since it was found to have spread to Britain in early 2012. Now it’s become a story in the mainstream press with warnings that it might spread across most of the UK.
There’s no evidence of this virus being zoonotic. That is, it’s not expected to harm humans. But if the human is a sheep farmer this virus could harm profits which, for several years now, have been extremely hard to come by in that industry. So the Schmallenberg virus is a serious matter. It’s not really a surprise, though. We’d been expecting change in vector-borne infections, driven by climate change, since a few decades ago.