• Question: What can be done about the Schmallenburg virus (the one thats affecting sheep)??? Could it affect humans??? Is a vaccine possible??? :)

    Asked by stellastar to Cathal, Daphne, Darren, Jon, Katherine on 10 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Daphne Ng

      Daphne Ng answered on 10 Mar 2012:

      This is the first time I heard about the Schmallenburg virus. Shows that you learn something new everyday, even as a scientist!

      Based on my research, the Schmallenburg virus is a newly discovered virus that causes stillbirths and other symptoms in cattle, sheep and goats. In fact, the virus was only identified end of last year and named this year. It has been found out that once the animals contract the virus and recover, they will not be infected again (kind of like getting chicken pox). Vaccination seems to be the way to prevent the spread of the virus.

      So far, based on comparison done with similar viruses, the Schmallenburg virus doesn’t seem to be able to spread from animals to humans. So humans are unlikely to be infected. But as with all viruses and infectious diseases, we can never be sure until we do further research (that’s where scientists come in).

      Hope you learnt something new today (I definitely have!)

    • Photo: Katherine Haxton

      Katherine Haxton answered on 10 Mar 2012:

      The virus is believed to be transmitted by midges and similar viruses have been tackled by tackling the bugs. If we could get rid of the infected midges they wouldn’t be able to infect the sheep any more. There are lots of illnesses caused by biting insects and they can be controlled by using pesticides, tricking the insects into thinking that there is a mate near by using certain chemicals that smell really good to the bugs and then trapping them, or by physically stopping them getting near animals, like a mosquito net. I don’t think we’ll be able to hide all the sheep behind mosquito nets so perhaps scientists will be able to work on one of the other solutions.
      Schmallenburg sounds horrible, particularly as it causes birth defects in lambs. There aren’t any known cases of it affecting humans and many viruses cant effect species as different as sheep and humans. I think this is one where a lot more research needs to be done to figure out the answers to your questions!