Schmallenberg virus Symposium, United Kindom 2012

The Satellite Symposium on the topic 'Schmallenmberg virus' was held 15 th June 2012 in Brighton, UK , organised by EPIZONE ERG.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is a novel orthobunyavirus first identified in cattle in Germany in Autumn 2011. In dairy cows in Germany and The Netherlands  signs of infection included fever, diarrhoea and a drastic reduction in milk production. Now it has also been detected in sheep and goats, and it has shown up at dozens of farms in The Netherlands, Germany and in Belgium. The new virus causes fetal malformations and stillbirths in cattle, sheep, and goats.

The virus is most likely transmitted by midges(Culicoides spp.), and infections likely occurred in summer and autumn of last year, but fetuses that were exposed to the virus in the womb are only now being born. Many more cases are expected to appear, especially in cattle, because bovine fetuses infected in summer 2011 would be expected to be born in February and March. A risk assessment for public health was issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention, saying it is unlikely that this new orthobunyavirus can cause disease in humans. Veterinary Institutes have been able to isolate the virus, several strains have been sequenced and the first animal experiments have been performed.

Still a lot of questions remain to be answered. Which vector species is transmitting the disease? Can animals infect each other directly? And of course, where did the virus come from? What can be done to control the virus and can we develop a vaccine? Scientists within Europe need to work together and exchange knowledge to control this new epizootic in Europe.