The family Bunyaviridae contains over 350 named isolates, classified into five genera: Orthobunyavirus, Hantavirus, Nairovirus, Phlebovirus and Tospovirus. The Orthobunyavirus genus contains some 170 isolates that are mainly transmitted by mosquitoes and are responsible for a range of disease syndromes in humans including self-limiting febrile illness, encephalitis and haemorrhagic fever. The viruses have a tripartite, negative-sense RNA genome. Analyses of viruses in four serogroups (Bunyamwera, California, Group C and Simbu) showed that the smallest (S) RNA segment encodes the nucleocapsid protein (N) and a non-structural protein called (NSs). The NSs protein of Bunyamwera virus (BUNV) has been shown to play a role in shut-off of host cell protein synthesis in mammalian cells, but no protein shut-off is observed in BUNVinfected mosquito cells (Aedes albopictus C6/36 cells). Protein shut-off in infected mammalian cells is achieved by global inhibition of RNA polymerase II-mediated transcription and enables the virus to overcome the host innate immune response. As innate defence mechanisms constitute a significant barrier to virus infection of different hosts, NSs would appear to play a key role in determining the zoonotic capacity of orthobunyaviruses.