Occurrence of malformed calves in April - May 2021 indicates an unnoticed 2020 emergence of Schmallenberg virus in Denmark

During the European emergence of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in 2011, examination of Culicoides spp. showed that SBV infected midges were present across Denmark. However, SBV associated malformations in ruminant species have not been reported in Denmark. In April 2021, seven calves with severe congenital generalized arthrogryposis and reduced body weight originating from a narrow region of the Jutlandic peninsula were submitted for examination. Analysis of fetal brain tissue for SBV viral RNA and pleural effusion for fetal anti-SBV antibodies identified SBV as the cause of the congenital syndrome. Backwards calculation from the calving dates indicated the occurrence of an unnoticed emergence of SBV in Denmark from early August 2020 and during the late summer and autumn. As SBV associated malformations may lead to severe dystocia requiring fetotomy or Cesarean section, veterinarians performing obstetric intervention are first line personnel in recognition of SBV emergence in domestic ruminants.

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