Affected lamb born with fixed flexed forelimbs and abnormal over-long fixed hindlimbs.
Affected lamb born with fixed flexed forelimbs and abnormal over-long fixed hindlimbs.

Schmallenberg virus has been associated with brief mild/moderate disease (milk drop, pyrexia, diarrhea) in adult cattle and late abortion or birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats, and has made an emergence in the European Union.

Defra, the U.K. government department responsible for policy and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs, says all the evidence currently suggests that Schmallenberg virus was brought into the U.K. from infected midges blown across the Channel. The disease has not been shown to be transmissible to humans.

US precautions
Though Schmallenberg has not been found in the United States, USDA-APHIS has placed some additional restrictions on imports of ruminant germplasm from the EU. 

A USDA-APHIS import alert issued Feb. 21 said: Shipments of bovine semen or embryos collected in EU countries after June 1, 2011 are not eligible for importation to the U.S. To be eligible for importation, any consignments of bovine germplasm originating from EU countries and that are presented for entry to the U.S. must include a statement on the official export health certificate indicating that the commodities were collected prior to June 1, 2011. 

Such consignments must continue to meet all other applicable APHIS import requirements. Shipments of bovine germplasm not meeting these eligibility criteria will be refused entry by Veterinary Services port personnel.

Is Schmallenberg virus a U.S. concern?Additionally, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, DVM, said in a statement: “USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is taking action to mitigate the entry of Schmallenberg virus, a pathogen that has been reported from a number of European Union  countries since late 2011 but is not known to exist in the United States.

“Schmallenberg virus is thought to be spread by insect vectors and affects several species of ruminants. While live ruminants are not currently eligible for importation from the EU, the United States does import bovine germplasm (semen and embryos) and is negotiating a protocol for ovine and caprine germplasm. Although not known at this time, it is possible the virus may be present in germplasm and infective to recipient animals.

“After reviewing the situation, APHIS has decided to place restrictions on the imports of bovine, ovine, and caprine germplasm from the EU. These restrictions may be adjusted as more information about the virus becomes available.

“Beginning in late 2011, Schmallenberg virus was reported by Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Infection can cause transient disease resulting in significant production loss and high percentages of fetal deformities and abortions.  The virus is not believed to affect humans."

For more information on the Schmallenberg virus and the disease in Europe, click here.