Schmallenberg virus: Nine more cases found

A flock of sheep
Image caption UK livestock may have been infected by midges blown from mainland Europe

Nine more farms in the south of England have reported cases of a disease which causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock, the government says.

It means a total of 92 cases of the Schmallenberg virus have been reported in the UK.

Two new cases are cattle, the others sheep, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

Humans are thought to be unaffected by the virus, which is understood to be spread by midges, mosquitoes and ticks.

In England, it has now been identified on the Isle of Wight and in Wiltshire, West Berkshire and Gloucestershire.

This is in addition to farms in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Cornwall, which have previously identified cases.

Defra said it suspected livestock may have got the virus from infected midges blown across the Channel from affected areas in Europe.

Infection is apparently symptomless in adult sheep. However, the virus can damage the foetus when pregnant females are infected, leading to a range of deformities at birth.

None of the affected farms have imported animals during 2011 from the affected areas in mainland Europe.

The impact of the disease on the UK sheep flock should become clear over the next two weeks as the lambing season reaches its peak.

The National Farmers Union had previously warned the industry to expect hundreds of reports of Schmallenberg in the coming weeks.

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