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Livestock disease now found in 109 holdings across Sussex
The Schmallenberg virus has been found in Sussex goats. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has found the crippling virus in the animals for the first time in Britain, at two farms in East Sussex. An AHVLA spokesman said: “We were aware the Schmallenberg virus can affect goats, but these are the first confirmed cases we have had in the UK so far.
“They are both serological results, from blood and plasma, which show that the antibodies to Schmallenberg are in the bloodstream but does not mean that the disease has manifested itself.
“Although this development is not entirely unexpected, with any new presentation of the disease, it’s a concern.”
The AHVLA has asked farmers with goats and alpacas to look out for virus symptomsand report suspicious cases to vets. It causes birth defects in lambs, goats and calves born to infected mothers. The number of cases at Sussex cattle and sheep farms has continued to rise. According to the latest figures there are now 109 affected holdings across the county – the second worst affected area after Devon. The virus, which came to Britain from the continent, is spread by midges.
Although the midges died off during winter, tests have revealed around 200 new cases are still being reported around the country every month.
With lambing season about to start, farmers fear more new cases could emerge over the coming months. In East Sussex 16 cases have been identified on cattle holdings and 40 on sheep holdings, plus the new goat cases.
In West Sussex there have been 15 cattle cases and 36 cases in sheep so far identified. The latest testing results, showed a total of 1,531 cases have now been confirmed in England, Scotland and Wales – a 26% increase from the previous total of 1,211 in January.
The testing also showed the first case in alpaca – identified in Northamptonshire. DEFRA hopes that despite the impact of the virus being “dramatic and very upsetting”, it was hoped that animals would build up immunity.
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