A new midge-borne virus is affecting sheep

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.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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One Response to A new midge-borne virus is affecting sheep

  1. Pingback: Expect deformed lambs and calves | Science on the Land

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