Hampshire farmers on alert over lethal virus outbreak

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FARMERS across the area are being urged to be on the lookout for signs of a deadly new virus that affects sheep and cattle.

The Schmallenburg virus is spread by midges and causes abortions, stillbirths and birth defects in cattle and sheep and fever diarrhoea and reduced milk yields in cattle. There is currently no vaccine for the virus.

Farmers are being asked to report any unusual signs such as stillbirths or birth defects to the Animal and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

The virus first emerged in the Netherlands and Germany last year and has crossed the channel from the continent. The disease has now been found on 74 farms in England, including reports of the virus at farms in West Sussex and on the Isle of Wight.

Howard Bates, NFU South East’s livestock board chairman, said: ‘Farmers have a key role to play in helping to further understanding of this new virus by working with vets who should submit samples from suspected cases for testing.’