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Concern Over ‘Incurable” Sheep Virus

29 January 2015

UK, SCOTLAND – A warning has been sent out advising farmers to check animals appearing to have lost condition this winter for untreatable viral disease Meadi Visna (MV).

Disease screening has found a “worrying number” of infections in the UK, suggesting the virus is spreading through the industry, says Scotland’s Rural College.

Out of 31 tested flocks, 23 per cent – seven farms – had the disease, which causes clinical signs of pneumonia. MV is difficult to diagnose and has no cure or vaccine.

“Farmers have started to heed our previous warnings about the disease,” said St Boswells based SRUC Veterinary investigation officer Lynn Gibson.

“Commercial flocks from throughout the UK have taken the opportunity to screen their animals using the MV diagnostic test package.”

From the Icelandic for ill-thrift, Maedi Visna is caused by a retrovirus, brought into the UK via imported animals and leads to poor body condition, fertility problems, increased mastitis; smaller and weaker lambs and higher mortality.

Lynn Gibson advises that the first things to look for are barren ewes and thinner sheep. MV can take years to develop, allowing it to time to spread through a flock.

“The first indications of a problem can include an increase in barren ewes or the numbers of thinner sheep meaning more are being culled from the flock as unproductive.

“Sheep never develop immunity to MV and with no effective treatment or cure the only option with heavily infected flocks is to depopulate and restock from reliable sources.

“We recommend any flock owners finding they have ewes which have lost condition since tupping (mating) time should check for MV. It is something to take seriously, not ignore. Disease in sheep flocks reduces productivity and income in a sector already operating on narrow margins.”

TheSheepSite News Desk



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