Wednesday 4th December 2013
Tuesday 21st February 2012 11:21
Vets and farmers fear a new animal disease will spread uncontrollably because there is no prevention or cure.
An outbreak of Schmallenberg virus is affecting sheep, cattle and goats across southern and eastern England.
The disease mostly infects sheep. It causes deformaties, abortion and stillbirths and cannot be treated, according to experts at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency.
"There is no treatment or vaccine available for this disease. As this is a new disease, further work is needed to determine what control measures may be available," said a spokesman for the VLA.
Outbreaks of the disease in Europe have been recorded since August last year. The first case in the UK was identified earlier this year in south-east England.
The virus is spread by biting insects, like midges and mosquitos, which scientists think were blown across the channel from France, where outbreaks occurred in 2011.
Experts are predicting that more animals will become infected as the weather gets milder, attracting more insects to the UK.
The virus has been identified in samples from 58 farms across the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Hampshire and most recently in Cornwall.
The VLA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have warned that the south west of England and south Wales are most at risk of the disease spreading as midges make their way over from France.
The National Farmers Union is calling for Government support to find out more about this new disease.