The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has claimed there are “knowledge gaps” surrounding the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) outbreak in Europe, and a full understanding of the disease and its spread is needed.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has claimed there are “knowledge gaps” surrounding the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) outbreak in Europe.

sheepIn its report – Schmallenberg virus: Analysis of the Epidemiological Data and Assessment of Impact – the EFSA states the need for a full understanding of the disease, including its geographical spread, its impact in the herd and its origin.

The report, the results of which were announced by the European Commission in Brussels, was produced by the EFSA following the commission’s request for scientific advice on SBV.

Schmallenberg virus – named after the German town where it was first identified – appears to be a vector-borne disease spread by Culicoides midges. Symptoms include fever, milk drop and diarrhoea in adult animals, while lambs and calves born of an infected mother may have limb and neurological deformities.

The disease was identified in August 2011, and has since spread across Europe through the incursion of infected midges.

The EFSA’s report – which is an overall assessment of the impact of SBV during the past 10 months – recommends certain data gaps are filled to improve predictions for possible future outbreaks. These include SBV vector competency and other vector host transmission parameters, the distribution, density and overwintering of Culicoides, SBV host vector transmission parameters and other routes of transmission.

The organisation also thinks host susceptibility, species range and virulence – as well as the vulnerable period during gestation – all require further investigation, as does the development and duration of post-infection immunity.

Adam Bealby, spokesman for the AHVLA, said: “[These] knowledge gaps have been discussed and agreed at an EU level, and there is an initiative to address these through multi-disciplinary research.
“Some gaps are of considerable scientific interest in understanding the origin of Schmallenberg – for example, its relationship to other orthobunyaviruses – and this knowledge may help us to understand potential future risks.
“However, such research is unlikely to lead to any change in the response to the current outbreak.”

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