The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has today published its second report on the Schmallenberg virus (SBV). The virus that to date has been identified in eight EU Member States can affect domestic and wild ruminants, leading in some cases to severe birth defects. Although uncertainties and gaps in data remain, today’s report importantly shows that when based on worst case scenario assumptions, the number of infected ruminants is low compared to the total number of these animals in each Member State.
Strong cooperation from Member States is reflected in the calibre of data collected according to guidance provided by EFSA which was published last month in response to an urgent request from the European Commission. The data collected by Member States have allowed the Authority to analyse the current geographical distribution and impact of the disease in the European Union.
Some caution nevertheless should be exerted when interpreting the data as underreporting or lack of diagnostic confirmation may affect the picture that we have today of the prevalence of the disease. Although all Member States have submitted detailed information about confirmed cases, only two also reported on suspected cases. Data recommendations stated in this report will be used to refine further data collection. To ensure that an - as accurate as possible - evolution of SBV is known, EFSA will publish periodical reports on the status and analysis of the data collected. Furthermore, EFSA will assess the overall impact of the SBV infection on animal health, animal production and animal welfare together with a characterisation of the pathogen by 31 May 2012.
The results of EFSA’s report are being shared at a scientific seminar held in Brussels today organised by the European Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate General (DG SANCO) that aims to present the current state of play on the latest scientific information on SBV and the risk management approach taken by the EU.
There is currently no evidence that the Schmallenberg virus could cause illness in humans.
End January 2012, the European Commission requested urgent scientific and technical assistance from EFSA to identify possible risks resulting from the Schmallenberg virus. One week later, the Authority published likely epidemiological scenarios and data needs.