Bovine Surveillance System (BSS)

Animal health protection is vital to food safety and public health, the trade of Canadian livestock and livestock products, and the economic well-being of Canada's agriculture sector. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) works closely with provincial and territorial governments, and livestock and poultry industries to prevent animal disease and conduct regular surveillance activities. Surveillance activities are important because they help to demonstrate Canada's freedom from specific diseases.

One such activity is the Bovine Surveillance System (BSS). Through the BSS, the CFIA collects and analyses information gathered from different sources to support Canada's claim that it is free from brucellosis and bluetongue in cattle.

How does the BSS work?

The CFIA uses both new and historical data in its BSS activities. These sources include periodic surveys, abattoir surveillance, targeted surveillance, and testing through the import/export and artificial insemination programs. Similar surveillance systems exist for the detection of specific diseases in swine and poultry.

Under the BSS, information is regularly collected and analyzed which enables the CFIA to assess the status of brucellosis and bluetongue in Canadian cattle on a continuous basis. Large periodic surveys, conducted every three to five years, have been replaced by the abattoir component of the BSS.

How does the abattoir component work?

Blood samples are randomly collected from cattle at slaughter on an ongoing basis and sent to a CFIA laboratory. There, they go through a series of screening tests known as "serological tests." If one of the samples tests positive, the CFIA conducts an investigation.

Approximately 3,000 samples will be collected and tested every year under this component of the BSS.

What does a positive serological test result mean?

A positive result from a serological test means that an animal may have been exposed to a virus (bluetongue) or bacteria (Brucella) at some point previously. It does not mean that an animal is currently infected. A positive result provides an indication that further investigation is required.

What action does the CFIA take if a sample tests positive?

When serological testing turns up a positive result, the CFIA locates the animal's farm of origin and traces the animal's movement history. Agency staff would visit the premises where the suspect animals lived to assess the health of the herds and to complete an epidemiological investigation. Additional samples would be taken from the herds for testing at a CFIA laboratory.

If an animal is confirmed to be infected, the CFIA may initiate a variety of disease control measures, which may include quarantine, testing and possibly ordering destruction of infected/exposed animals, depending on the disease. Producers may be awarded compensation for animals that are ordered destroyed by the CFIA for disease control purposes.

Does brucellosis or bluetongue pose a risk to human health?

While brucellosis can cause a disease in humans called "undulant fever," human cases are rare in Canada. Sanitary practices in slaughterhouses and pasteurization of milk are effective in preventing the vast majority of human cases of brucellosis.

There is no risk to human health associated with bluetongue.

Date modified: