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Schmallenberg virus

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Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is a virus which has been reported in cattle, sheep and goats. SBV is not a notifiable disease.

It was discovered in Germany in summer 2011.  Since then it has spread across Europe and was found in England for the first time in January 2012. The first case of SBV infection in Wales was detected in cattle in Ceredigion in September 2012.


The main means of SBV infection is via infected biting insects, most likely midges.  These insects could continue to spread SBV in GB through the autumn and winter.

A vaccine against SBV has now been given marketing authorisation and is available for use across the UK.  Livestock keepers interested in more information about the vaccine should contact their private veterinary surgeon.

Signs of the disease

Signs include:

  • adult cattle – fever, reduction in milk yield, diarrhoea – for a few days.  These signs may be slight even in dairy animals.

  • adult sheep – may show no clinical signs

  • new born animals - birth defects such as deformed limbs and incoordination. Animals may be born dead or die soon after birth.

Infected animals develop a good immune response. It is thought that the immunity may persist for some time. If the animal is not pregnant, there are unlikely to be significant consequences. If the animal is pregnant, infection may lead to foetal deformities. 

Is there a risk to human health

Based on the current available evidence it is considered extremely unlikely that SBV can cause disease in humans.  Ongoing investigations have revealed that people who have been in close contact with infected animals have not reported any unusual disease. However, animal keepers and veterinarians handling animal material should take sensible precautions to avoid infection.  Particular care should be taken handling material associated with abortions and still births.

This is particularly important for pregnant women as they are at risk from infections that can occur in some animals. We therefore advise pregnant women to avoid close contact with any animals that are giving birth.

What do I need to do

Livestock farmers should be vigilant and report suspicions to their private vet.

Related links

EU impact assessment (external link)

Schmallenberg virus: Analysis of the epidemiological data November 2012 (external link).