- 29th February 2012
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Climate change is raising the risk of diseases such as Schmallenberg in the UK and northern Europe, say scientists.
Schmallenberg virus affects sheep and cattle, and is probably carried by midges. It was identified in Germany last year, and in the UK in January.
Until 1990, Europe’s midge-borne viral diseases were found only in Spain and Portugal; but two have emerged within the last six years in northern Europe.
Experts say the path of Schmallenberg is currently impossible to predict.
Schmallenberg virus – named after the German town where it was first identified – causes fever and diarrhoea in adult animals, but they recover.
However, infection during a critical stage of pregnancy leads to lambs and calves being born with deformation of limbs, spine or brain. Many are stillborn.
Currently it has been found on 83 farms in the UK, mainly in the southeast.
One part of the puzzle that scientists have put together is the influence of climate change on the risks of midge-borne viral diseases.
A higher temperature means an increase in the number of midges, and that they feed more often. It also allows the virus to develop faster.
Using weather and climate models as well as information on the biology of viruses and midges, Prof Baylis’s research group showed that recent climatic change in northern Europe has significantly increased the risk of viral midge-borne diseases.
“Temperature changes in Europe which to most of us have felt relatively small have in our model led to a large increase in the risk of viral midge-borne diseases,” he said.
The modelling results, he said, reflected what has actually happened across the continent.
Source: BBC News