Bamako, Mali

What’s this Schmallenberg virus ?


These last few days, several European countries (Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) notified OIE about a non-listed disease, provisionally referred to as the disease of Schmallenberg (a German village where the virus was detected for the first time).

What is this all about then ?

The virus of Schmallenberg is a new virus of the Bunyaviridae family, identified since November 2011 in several samples from bovines and sheep presenting rather atypical symptoms.

In cattle, the symptoms are initially subtle with a decline in the general condition, fever, loss of appetite, drop in milk production, sometimes diarrhoea. Symptoms disappear after a few days.

In sheep, the main symptom is the abnormal still birth or abortion rate and congenital malformations.

Transmission occurs through culex-type mosquitoes, hence a seasonal epidemiology. At this point, treatment is purely symptomatic, without vaccine, nor specific treatment available.

There is currently no indication of risks for human health. In Europe, it is now recommended to establish epidemiological surveillance of atypical disease cases in cattle, sheep and goats and to encourage framers to report any suspicion with the competent authority.

The disease not being listed by OIE, it must be notified to the OIE as an emerging disease, at least until the next OIE General Session.

Laboratory diagnosis is carried out on the following samples:

  • for live animals: whole blood and serum, as well as nasal swabs and diarrhoea samples,
  • for aborted calves and kids and still-borns : brain, spinal-cord and the heart.

The laboratories having detected the virus to date are the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (Germany), the Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (Belgium) and the Central Veterinary Institute (Netherlands).

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