A new livestock disease causing deformities in animals at birth is spreading rapidly in Germany, with at least five European countries affected to date, agriculture authorities said Wednesday.
The Friedrich Loeffler Federal Research Institute of Animal Health said that 186 farms in Germany had been hit since the so-called Schmallenberg virus broke out there in November, with eight of the country's 16 states reporting cases.
On 172 of the farms, sheep were infected.
The institute said Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands and France had also reported cases.
Russia has said it would suspend livestock imports from the countries affected as a result of the outbreak.
Named after the German town where it was first detected, Schmallenberg had hit 51 German farms mainly in the North Rhine-Westphalia state, the institute reported on January 26.
The disease is believed to be carried by gnats, causes fever and diarrhoea among adult livestock and cannot be transmitted from one animal to another, experts say. There is currently no vaccine for Schmallenberg.
It can however be transmitted to sheep, goat and cattle embryos leading to stillbirths or deformities causing death soon after birth and is similar to viruses previously detected in Australia and South America.
Germany's food, agriculture and consumer protection ministry said Wednesday it would set up a system of mandatory reporting in March after approval by the parliament.
The European Food Safety Authority has said the virus is not transmissible to humans.
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