January 18, 2012 / 5:30 PM / 8 years ago

Russia bans imports of Dutch meat over new virus

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Russia has banned imports of sheep and goat meat and live animals from the Netherlands following an outbreak of a new virus detected last year, the Dutch Economics and Agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

The Schmallenberg virus, named after a German town where it was first found last year, was first diagnosed in December at a Dutch sheep farm in the brains of lambs who were born with a deformed neck or head or stiff joints.

It is transmitted by means of insect vectors and so far, the disease has been detected in 20 farms in Germany, in 52 farms in the Netherlands, and in 14 farms in Belgium, the Netherlands’ Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health said in a report earlier this month.

“Further virus circulation in the current winter is unlikely to occur. There is no evidence that the Schmallenberg virus is able to spread to humans,” it said.

“We were informed today that Russia has introduced a ban which includes goat and sheep meat as well as breeding animals, sperm and embryos,” said ministry spokeswoman Cindy Heijdra.

Dutch exports of goat and sheep meat to Russia are very small and this decision will not have a major impact, she said.

Heijdra added that the Dutch state secretary Henk Bleker will send a letter to his Russian counterpart informing him about actions taken following the outbreak of the virus.

Similar letters will be sent to authorities in Mexico, which has also introduced the ban, and to China, which has asked the Netherlands for information about the virus but has not yet introduced an import ban, Heijdra said.

Reporting By Ivana Sekularac; editing by Keiron Henderson

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