SW MEP Girling tables urgent PQ on EU handling of deadly Schmallenberg virus - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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SW MEP Girling tables urgent PQ on EU handling of deadly Schmallenberg virus

Monday, 5 March 2012
South West MEP Julie Girling has today tabled an urgent parliamentary question (PQ) to the European Commission regarding the EU's handling of the Schmallenberg virus outbreak. Now affecting more than 1,000 farms across Europe, if not contained soon it threatens to devastate the continents’ livestocks and farming industries.

The virus, named after the small town of Schmallenberg, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany where the first definitive sample was identified, is thought to be carried by midges and causes late abortion or birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.

It was first discovered in the region among a flock of sheep at an undisclosed location in Cornwall, but today more confirmed cases were reported in four more counties including Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

A lamb atop a hill in Cornwall (Photo: FT)
In her urgent parliamentary question to be replied to within two weeks, Mrs Girling asks the Commission to confirm “what action it is taking regarding issuing guidelines to farmers to help them combat the virus and how it is linking with veterinary agencies to ensure appropriate action is taken to reduce its spread”.

There is major concerns in the South West region and beyond that the presence and further spread of the Schmallenberg virus could have a serious effect on the imminent lambing season.

First spotted in the UK in East Anglia and previously thought to have been confined to the South East of England, there has recently been an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported across the Channel in France. The virus has also been detected in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

On Friday the government confirmed nine more farms in the south of England have fallen victim to the disease taking the total to 92 confirmed cases in the UK alone. At the time of writing, the figure has risen to 121.

Schmallenberg produces fever, diarrhoea and loss of milk production in adult cattle, but infection is apparently symptomless in adult sheep which makes detection of the virus very difficult. As a result the true impact of the disease on the UK's sheep flock will only become clear as the lambing season reaches its peak over the next two weeks.

Humans are thought to be unaffected by the virus, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has suggested there is a low likelihood of any risk to public health saying it is "
unlikely that this virus will cause disease in humans, but it cannot be excluded at this stage".

The answer supplied on behalf of the Commission will be posted here in due course. Hopefully the virus can be quickly contained before it devastates the Europe's farming industry.

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