820 German farms hit by virus
Berlin - More than 800 German farms have been hit by a new livestock disease that causes deformities in animals at birth, agriculture authorities say.
Most of the 820 farms where the so-called Schmallenberg virus has been detected raise sheep, but cattle and goats are also affected, the Friedrich Loeffler Federal Research Institute of Animal Health said.
The institute said in February that 186 farms in Germany had been affected.
Believed to be carried by gnats and named after the German town where it was first detected, Schmallenberg causes fever and diarrhoea in adult livestock and cannot be transmitted from one animal to another, experts say.
It can however be transmitted to sheep, goats and cow embryos, leading to stillbirths or deformities causing death soon after birth.
The institute said it believed the first infections dated to mid-2011 and stressed that the virus was not transmissible to humans.
The virus, first identified in November, has been detected in Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and France.