It also effects cattle and has killed thousands of animals after hitting 74 farms in eastern and southern England.
In Europe 1,000 farms were affected by the virus, and some farmers in the country have reported losing 20% of their lambs since it arrived in the country last month.
The lambs that have the virus have horrendous deformities such as misshapen heads, twisted necks and fused limbs, which mean they can’t survive. The others are stillborn.
Scientists are urgently trying to figure out how the disease is spreading to stop it killing the livestock, which is what happened with the foot and mouth disease in 2011, which resulted in millions of animals being slaughtered.
Humans who have been exposed the virus have not experienced any adverse effects and the Food Standards Agency say that the risk is low to people. However, it is still a “potential catastrophe” say the National Farmers’ Union, which like everyone else in the food industry like suppliers, UK restaurant insurance providers and manufacturers, are suffering from the economic downturn.
The disease is understood to have been brought to Britain by midges and is named after the small German town where it was first spotted last summer.
Ewes show no sign of the disease or illness until they give birth to their young, by which it is too late to save them.
The impact of the disaster is likely to be felt in the next coming weeks, as the lambing season has only just begun.
One farmer has said how he had to put down more lambs than any point over the last 20 years and others have described it as being ‘soul-destroying’. Farmers have had to shoot the deformed lambs as they are unable to suckle to save them from a slow and painful death.
Alistair Mackintosh of the National Farmers’ Union said, “For any business to lose 20 per cent of your stock would be a huge blow. For a farmer it is catastrophic. If it was 50 per cent you would be put out of action.
“I know one farmer who says 10 per cent of his 6,000 ewes have become barren, so that is 600 animals producing nothing.”
The counties in the UK which have been worst affected so far are Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex, but the virus has already spread to parts of South Wales and Cornwall.
Farmers are concerned that a vaccine for the disease does not exist and could take nearly 2 years to develop.