Britain’s lambs being wiped out by killer virus from Europe amid fears disease could spread to humans
26th February 2012
Urgent tests are under way to see if a killer virus which is threatening to wipe out lambs in Britain’s meadows this spring poses a threat to humans.
Experts think the Schmallenburg Virus has spread into Britain from Europe by infected midges which swarmed across the North Sea last summer and autumn.
At present, a Europe-wide assessment has concluded that it is unlikely to cause illness in people.
However, as it is a new virus, work is on-going to identify whether it could cause any health problems to people.
Catherine McLaughlin, National Farmers’ Union animal health and welfare adviser, said: ‘This is still a relatively new virus, it is a developing situation and it’s difficult to predict the scale of the problems.
‘We are continuing to work closely with colleagues at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the UK and EU scientific communities to learn as much as quickly as possible.’
The winter weather has stopped any more midges making the sea crossing, but it is feared that once spring arrives and it gets warmer, the disease will increase its grip on the UK.
Meanwhile in another alarming development, cattle have also been infected, meaning there could be an even bigger impact on meat prices on supermarket shelves.