Veterinary scientists at the University of California-Davis found that the bluetongue virus survives winters by reproducing in midges, the insect that carries and spreads the virus, Pat Bailey of Imperial Valley News reported. The disease costs American cattle and sheep raisers an estimated $125 million each year. The research was conducted at a Northern California dairy farm.

“This discovery has important ramifications for predicting the occurrence of bluetongue in livestock and, we hope, for eventually developing controls for the disease,” said co-author James MacLachlan, a UC Davis veterinary professor and viral disease expert.

While the disease mostly affects sheep, in the U.S. it hits the cattle industry the hardest, because it is much larger than the sheep industry. The disease does not affect humans.

Researcher believe the virus may still have other ways of surviving the winter.

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