New Orthobunyavirus isolated from infected cattle and small livestock, potential implications for human health


In early November 2011 a new orthobunyavirus, provisionally named the Schmallenberg virus, was detected from infected cattle in Germany and the Netherlands. In addition, lambs infected with the same virus in utero resulting in congenital malformations have recently been reported from the Netherlands.

Based on current evidence, it is not possible to confirm or exclude a causal relationship between the detection of the new orthobunyavirus and clinical symptoms such a fever, diarrhoea, anorexia and decrease in milk yield being observed in cattle and small livestock. Epidemiological, immunological and microbiological investigations are ongoing in Germany and the Netherlands. According to Health Authorities in Germany and the Netherlands, further cases in cattle and small livestock are likely to be expected.

Previously, genetically similar orthobunyaviruses have not caused disease to humans. Therefore, it is unlikely that this virus would cause disease in humans, but it cannot be excluded at this stage. Close collaboration between animal and human health services is necessary to ensure rapid detection of any change of the epidemiology in animals and humans. In particular, the health of farmers and veterinarians in close contact with potentially infected animals should be carefully monitored.

Read the Risk assessment 'New Orthobunyavirus isolated from infected cattle and small livestock ─ potential implications for human health', 22 December 2011