Livestock disease in Europe spreading

Feb. 20, 2013 at 4:22 PM

NOTTINGHAM, England, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A disease hitting sheep flocks and cattle herds in Europe has spread to wild animals, infecting wild deer, veterinary experts say.

The virus disease spread by insects, which causes birth defects in lambs and can reduce milk yields in cattle, is having huge financial impacts on some farms, they said.

Now studies in Belgium have shown wild deer can catch the virus, known as Schmallenberg virus or SBV, although the impact on deer and their offspring is unknown.

"We know deer get the virus -- they produce antibodies to it," Rachael Tarlinton, a virology expert and veterinary scientist at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC.

There is concern wild animals like deer could act as a reservoir of infection, scientists said.

"We should implement specific surveillance of wild animals for SBV," said Mutien-Marie Garigliany of the Universite de Liege, one of a team of experts studying SBV in wildlife in the south of Belgium.

In addition to deer, wild boar have shown signs of SBV infection, although it is not thought to make them sick, he said.

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