Canada Scrapie Sheep
Slaughter Continues

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

From ProMED-mail
Canada Scrapie Sheep Slaughter Continues
The federal government is continuing the slaughter of thousands of sheep in eastern Quebec in an attempt to control the spread of scrapie, the sheep version of mad cow disease.
Since 1998, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has ordered the slaughter of 21 992 Quebec sheep, including 1048 so far in 2003.
"It's important to keep in mind that this is not an epidemic situation," said Christiane Allard, a veterinarian in charge of disease control for the agency.
In 1998, an outbreak of scrapie led to the slaughter of 8000 sheep in eastern Quebec. Thousands of sheep have since been slaughtered each year as new cases have emerged. "The control program is different than it was at that time," Allard said. "We are in a better position to control the spread, we hope."
Jean-Francois Samray of the Quebec Sheep Federation said the new cases are all connected to the 1998 outbreak. Sheep with scrapie can take up to 5 years to show signs, he said. They can also pass the disease to newborn lambs.
"This should reassure Canadians that the system is working," said Samray. "They're all related to the original phase." Many countries including Canada have renewed efforts to control scrapie after the British mad cow epidemic.
In 2004, Canadian sheep producers will be required to permanently tag and trace all sheep and goats that are born and sold in Canada, similar to a system in place for cattle. Quebec's sheep industry will take the measures a step further, forcing its 1300 producers to tag and trace all 400 000 Quebec sheep in 2004.
Scrapie is a fatal disease of the central nervous system in sheep and goats. The disease is from the same family as mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE), chronic wasting disease (CWD) in elk and deer, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans.
While scrapie is not thought to pose a direct threat to humans, scientists believe infected sheep carcasses fed to cattle may have started the BSE epidemic in Britain. At least 130 people worldwide have subsequently died from [variant] Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in cases that are believed to be linked to infected cattle.
The practice of feeding sheep remains to cattle was banned in Canada in 1997.
Scrapie is transmitted through amniotic fluid, so infected ewes easily pass the illness to their lambs.
[Other countries seem to be concentrating their scrapie eradication efforts through selective breeding. This was proposed in Canada in 1998. However, it seems slaughter is the official method of eradication in Canada.
Scrapie is a TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) of sheep (ovine), just as BSE (mad cow disease) is a TSE of cattle (bovine). Scrapie has been recognized for 200 years and has not been shown to cause human illness. It is an OIE List B disease, for which reporting is required only annually. - Mod.TG]
[To borrow information provided in a comment from Mod.MHJ in an earlier posting on scrapie in Quebec in 1998 (Scrapie, eradication program - Canada (Quebec) 19980814.1614):
1996: 7 cases of scrapie diagnosed -- 4 in Quebec and 3 in Ontario, from 6 sheep flocks. Three flocks were depopulated. A total of 57 laboratory submissions were made in 1996. No scrapie was diagnosed in goats.
1997: 47 cases of scrapie diagnosed -- 38 in Quebec (14 flocks) and 9 in Ontario (2 flocks). Ten flocks were depopulated. No scrapie was diagnosed in goats.
While it may be infrequent this disease can have significant constraints on interprovincial and international trade in live sheep, and negatively affect buyers' confidence. - Mod.MPP]
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health



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