A virus that causes deformities in newborn lambs and calves could spread as far as Scotland and Wales before the end of the year, scientists have warned
The Schmallenberg virus was originally found at the beginning of this year in farms in the South East of England, but the warm wet weather may help it expand across the rest of the UK.
The disease is transferred by midges, making it highly effective at infecting entire herds very quickly. If ewes and cows are infected when pregnant, they can give birth to calves and lambs with a wide range of deformities.
Peter Mertens, a professor at the Institute for Animal Health, said, “There is no reason why it should not spread to most of the UK this year. The insects are there, the susceptible animals are there – it could spread to the whole country.
“We had hoped that it might simply burn itself out and fail to make a reappearance this year, but this has not been the case,” he added.
The virus poses no risk to human health and a vaccine is currently being developed, although it is unlikely to be available until next year.