Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Vaccine for animal birth defects

Schmallenberg virus has been seen in cattle and sheep in the UK since early 2012

A new vaccine is being made available to prevent a disease which causes severe birth defects and miscarriages in livestock, it has been announced.

Schmallenberg virus, which emerged in the Netherlands and Germany in 2011 and has been seen in cattle and sheep in the UK since early 2012, has been identified on more than 1,700 farms across the country.

Adult animals infected during pregnancies in the autumn by virus-carrying midges, thought to have blown across the Channel, have given birth to deformed or stillborn lambs and calves.

UK farmers are the first in the European Union to have access to a vaccine against Schmallenberg, which will be available for vaccinating livestock this summer before most animals become pregnant again.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has licensed veterinary pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health to provide the "Bovolis SBV" vaccine.

VMD chief executive Pete Borriello said: "This is the culmination of intensive activity on the part of MSD Animal Health and the VMD to make a safe and effective vaccine available to tackle Schmallenberg.

"Without in any way compromising the scientific rigour of our assessment process, we accelerated our assessment so that a vaccine will be available this summer."

This means it will be possible to vaccinate sheep and cattle before most of them become pregnant. This is important as it is during pregnancy when exposure to the virus can cause damage to the foetus."

The Environment Department's deputy chief veterinary officer Alick Simmons said: "The vaccine will give extra assurance against this disease on top of the natural immunity we expect sheep and cattle to develop after initial exposure."

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