Probably transmitted by insects, the virus is affecting goats, sheep and cattle, causing abortions, deformities, severe diarrhoea, fever and drops in milk production.
At a meeting of the EU Council of Ministers for agriculture this week (on January 23), the Dutch delegation briefed the EU’s 26 other governments on the outbreak of the Schmallenberg virus, requesting a co-ordinated EU rapid exchange of information on detected cases; combined research efforts on diagnostics; epidemiology and vaccine development.
It also requested financial support from the European Commission for monitoring and research. According to the Commission, the EU could potentially finance research in this area.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the UK since it was first detected in early November 2011 in cattle in Germany. By 23 January, 283 farms had reported symptoms that could indicate an infection with the Schmallenberg virus.
Dutch minister for agriculture and foreign trade Henk Bleker is also urging the EU to step in before this virus significantly affects trade: Russia has already suspended the import of EU sheep and goats – and their products – while Mexico has suspended the import of genetic material from all EU ruminants. “In view of European trade interests, I would also urge a concerted and joint approach to address the export issue,” said Bleker.