Animal virus detected on 74 farms

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The Independent Online

A new animal disease that causes birth defects and miscarriages in livestock has now been found on 74 farms in England.

The Schmallenberg virus emerged in the Netherlands and Germany last year, causing mild to moderate symptoms in adult cattle, including reduced milk yield and diarrhoea, and late abortions and birth deformities in sheep, goats and cattle.

It is thought the virus is spread by midges, and has crossed the Channel from the Continent. Five of the positive cases have been diagnosed in cattle and 69 in sheep. So far, none of the affected farms have reported importing animals from the affected areas in mainland Europe.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "As everyone connected with the livestock industry has been expecting, the number of cases has increased as lambing and calving begin to gather pace.

"As farmers, vets, and governments continue to gather information about the progress and effects of this disease, it's vital that farmers continue to report any suspicions they have as soon as possible."