Understand What to Expect if Scrapie has been Detected on your Farm

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This page provides Canadian sheep and goat producers with information about what happens if an animal from their flock or herd has been tested and found to be infected with scrapie.

In Canada, scrapie is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act, and all cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Scrapie Disease Control

Once an animal has been diagnosed with scrapie, the CFIA takes action to control the disease. These steps, described in more detail below, include some or all of the following:

  • Initial investigation
  • Detailed investigation
  • Scrapie susceptibility testing (not applicable to goats)
  • Destruction and disposal
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Removal of the Quarantine and Cease to be an Infected Place
  • Surveillance (5 years)

1. Initial Investigation

A scrapie investigation is typically triggered by a positive scrapie test result. If an animal from your farm tests positive for scrapie, the CFIA will contact you to schedule a farm visit.  

A CFIA inspector will come to your farm to begin the investigation.  The inspector will ask you questions about the history of the animal. Farm records will facilitate this discussion and should be made available to the inspector.   

The inspector will also conduct a walk-through of the farm to look for other animals with signs of scrapie and to familiarize themselves with the farm layout.  The inspector will provide information on scrapie, the investigation process and next steps.    

In most situations, if the scrapie positive animal was born on your farm, lambed or kidded, or has been residing on the premises, your farm would be considered a scrapie infected place and quarantined. 

The duration of the initial investigation depends on the complexity of the situation, the history and size of the flock and the ability to locate and access farm records. 

If a Declaration of Infected Place and Quarantine is issued during the initial visit, the inspector will explain what this means and what will happen next.

CFIA inspectors and veterinarians will work with you to address the outbreak on your farm. Cooperation with CFIA staff is important to prevent the spread of disease and will help you return to regular business faster. 

Why does scrapie matter so much?

  • It is very important to work with the inspector on your case and to follow the instructions provided because Canada is working towards eradicating scrapie from our national sheep flock and goat herd.     
  • Scrapie has a long incubation period. It can take years for an infected animal to show signs of the disease. During that time, it can expose other sheep and goats to the disease.     
  • Due to the chronic nature of the disease, eliminating scrapie from the national sheep flock and goat herd is challenging. Therefore it is very important that that the appropriate procedures are followed for each infected animal to ensure that no further animals are exposed.  

What should I prepare before the inspector arrives?

  • It is a good idea to review your farm records before the inspector arrives to be better able to answer the inspector's questions and to refresh your memory.
  • If possible it is a good idea to have copies of your records available to the inspector.
  • Being prepared helps the initial investigation run more smoothly and will help avoid delays or unnecessary visits.

What is a Declaration of Infected Place?

  • A Declaration of Infected Place is an order that covers the environment of the farm. This order will be placed on the premises if it is considered scrapie infected based on the result of the initial investigation.     
  • Under a Declaration of Infected Place, the property is placed under control.  Under a Quarantine, the animal and things on the farm are placed under control. A Declaration of Infected Place and Quarantine are usually issued together for a scrapie infected premises.

How does the Quarantine work?

  • The Quarantine (Requirement to Quarantine and/or License to Transport Animals or Things) is an order that will be delivered to you and explained at the same time as the Declaration of Infected Place form.
  • This imposes a quarantine on, and controls movement of, the animals or things that are affected or suspected to be contaminated by scrapie.
  • The order may also specify movement restrictions placed on certain animal products, such as manure, milk and milk by-products.
  • The inspector will go through the details on both the forms with you.  It is important to read the forms and understand your responsibilities under the Quarantine and Declaration of Infected Place.  

Examples of your responsibilities under the quarantine include:

  • controlling movement of all quarantined animals and things;
  • reporting all sick and dying animals, and any that escape the farm;
  • prohibiting any colostrum, milk, or milk by-products from leaving the farm except for the purpose of human consumption or destruction;
  • ensuring all of your animals have at least two forms of identification. If you have sheep, one of the two forms must be a  Canadian Sheep Identification Program approved tag; and
  • maintaining fences and gates to control movement of animals and animal products.

How do I run my farm under the quarantine?

  • The inspector will give you detailed information on what can and cannot be done while you are under a Declaration of Infected Place and a Quarantine order.  
  • The quarantine would be applied to any sheep or goats on the farm, including those kept as pets.  Animals under quarantine are not permitted to move off the farm.
  • A special license called a License for Removal Animals and Things will be issued releasing all non-susceptible species (such as other livestock and pets) and products considered safe (such as feed, wool) on your premises so they are permitted to move on and off the farm.
  • Sheep and goats younger than 12 months of age may be licensed off the premises for slaughter.

2. Detailed Investigation

The primary purpose of the detailed investigation is to get more information on the history of the scrapie infected animal and to determine where other potentially exposed animals are now located.   Part of the investigation will also focus on how and when the positive animal became infected and when scrapie was introduced onto the farm.

To do this, the inspector will need to look at your farm records. The inspector will likely have taken a look at your records initially to help sort out the initial steps in managing the case.  However, for the detailed investigation, the inspector will need more information.  

Below is a checklist of the recommended information to prepare before your detailed farm visit. To avoid any delays or unnecessary visits, have this information ready for the inspector's visit and, if possible, provide photocopies of your records.

Checklist of Things to Prepare:

  • Flock records, including births, sales and exchanges of animals for at least the last 5 years;
  • Flock records, including all introductions, and purchases of animals for at least 5 years before the birth date of the positive animal;
  • History of scrapie on the farm or link to another scrapie case;
  • Any previous scrapie testing ;
  • Information on animals that have exhibited clinical signs of scrapie on the farm;
  • Records of mortalities over 12 months of age, post mortems/diagnosis if available;
  • Contact information for your farm veterinarian;
  • Detailed description of farm management practices, including number and types of animals, management practices (pasturing, pens, lambing practices, feeding practice); and
  • Incidents of commingling with other sheep or goats from other farms.

What happens on farms identified as having a link to my infected farm?

  • As part of the detailed investigation, the CFIA staff will trace the geographical movements of any sheep that may have been exposed to scrapie or may have been the source of the infection.
  • "Trace-ins" and "Trace-outs" are terms used by the CFIA to refer to identifying and tracking animals that have had some contact with or are linked to a scrapie positive animal.  
  • Trace-ins refers to animals brought onto the infected farm that may be the potential source of the infection. 
  • Depending on the situation and time period of interest, potential source farm investigations may result in any of the following: a farm visit, live animal flock or herd testing, deadstock surveillance (any mature animals that die on farm must be tested for scrapie).
  • Trace-outs refer to exposed animals that have left the infected farm.   
  • Depending on the situation and time period of interest, farms investigations due to a purchased animal from a scrapie infected farm may result in any of the following: a farm visit, the purchased animal destroyed and scrapie tested, deadstock surveillance.

3.  Destruction and Disposal with Compensation

Once your farm is quarantined and declared scrapie infected, a CFIA inspector will outline what will be destroyed in an effort to prevent the spread of disease.  Typically all susceptible animals are ordered destroyed when scrapie is detected on a farm.  For sheep, adult sheep and breeding stock younger than 12 months that are genetically low risk for scrapie may be permitted to remain on the farm. This is determined through scrapie susceptibility testing or genotype testing.

Genotyping is not available for goats at the present time as association studies between specific genetics and susceptibility to scrapie are less clear in goats. As a result all goats are ordered destroyed. 

Scrapie Susceptibility Testing of Sheep

All adult sheep (older than 12 months) on your scrapie infected farm will be genotyped.  As well, young animals identified as breeding stock may be genotyped.  Genotyping sheep is a genetic test that tells us which animals are at a higher risk of developing scrapie. 

To genotype your sheep, blood samples will need to be taken. The blood sample collection will be conducted by CFIA veterinarians. The date will be scheduled with you.  Your role in the genotyping of your sheep will be to muster the animals in an area suitable for handling and blood collection and to ensure that all animals are properly identified with approved tags.  Once the blood samples are collected, they will be sent to a lab and analyzed to determine the genotype of each sheep. The results of the genotyping will be shared with you.

Based on the genotyping result:

  • those animals considered to be at low risk (resistant) for scrapie infection are not ordered destroyed and allowed to remain on the farm
  • those animals considered to be intermediate and high risk (susceptible) for scrapie infection are ordered destroyed and scrapie tested

Genotyping is important in the disease control process since only those sheep that are at higher risk for scrapie infection are ordered destroyed.

Order of Destruction

Once susceptible animals that have been exposed to the disease have been identified, a Requirement to Dispose will be issued by the CFIA inspector. This document outlines which animals are to be destroyed and the manner of disposal.

Compensation

Compensation may be awarded for the animals and things ordered destroyed on your farm. As well, disposal costs may be covered for animals ordered destroyed. 

Compensation awards  are based on market value, up to the maximum amounts established by the Compensation for Destroyed Animals Regulations. Animals ordered destroyed must be appraised in order to award compensation. Compensation amounts are less any carcass value paid by an abattoir.

For more information on compensation, you can consult Animal Health Compensation - What to expect when an animal is ordered destroyed.

Method of Destruction and Disposal

Sheep and Goats under 12 months

For sheep and goats under 12 months, the most common method of destruction and disposal is to be sent for slaughter at an abattoir.  All animals must be under 12 months when they go to slaughter.  Age may be determined using identification tags and records or the assessment of permanent teeth. If slaughter is not possible then, alternative arrangements with the CFIA inspector will need to be made.

Sheep and Goats over 12 months

All exposed sheep over 12 months of age that are found to be susceptible for scrapie must be destroyed.  All exposed goats over 12 months must be destroyed. Age may be determined using identification tags and records or the assessment of permanent teeth. CFIA veterinarians will coordinate and plan the humane destruction of the animals with you.

You will be responsible for mustering the animals in a suitable area and ensuring they all have identification tags.  The humane destruction of the animals will be carried out by CFIA veterinarians and the destroyed adult animals will be sampled and tested for scrapie.

There are 3 methods of disposal that are acceptable for sheep or goats 12 months or older that are ordered destroyed. These 3 methods are:

    • burial on the farm
    • incineration
    • commercial specified risk material (SRM) renderers

The disposal method chosen needs to comply with any provincial or municipal environmental regulations.

The disposal costs associated with animals ordered destroyed may be covered by the CFIA. You will be responsible for arranging for disposal and paying all of the disposal costs upfront. Receipts for eligible expenses must be presented to the CFIA

5.  Cleaning and Disinfection

Once all animal destruction and disposal activities have been completed, your farm must be properly cleaned and disinfected.  The CFIA district veterinarian can assist you in developing an effective cleaning and disinfection plan. However, the actions and costs associated with cleaning and disinfection are your responsibility.  The CFIA inspector should assess the cleaning of the premises before you begin the disinfection step.

The process for cleaning and disinfection includes:

  • disposing of potentially contaminated materials and items, such as bedding, manure and waste materials;
  • thorough cleaning, and then disinfecting, of all confined indoor and outdoor areas where scrapie-positive animals were born or where they had lambed or resided;
  • disposing of surface soil from outdoor and indoor lambing areas and confined areas where scrapie positive animals resided; and
  • thorough cleaning, and then disinfecting, of all concrete, metal and wood structures with which scrapie-positive animals may have come into contact (such as water troughs, drinking bowls, and milking parlors).

Contaminated materials can be disposed of by burial, incineration or composting for 6 months and then disposed of on land where sheep and goats do not have access.  All methods of disposal must comply with provincial and municipal waste management requirements.

6.  Removal of Quarantine and Cease to be an Infected Place

Once cleaning and disinfection are complete, the CFIA will assess the farm to determine when the quarantine and declaration of infected place may be removed from the premises.

Following the removal of the quarantine and declaration of infected place, you will no longer have any movement restrictions on the animals or things on your farm.  Animals may come onto the farm for restocking and animals may leave the farm for any reason.

The only follow up requirement is a 5 year deadstock surveillance requirement.

7.  Deadstock Surveillance for 5 Years

Under the 5 year deadstock surveillance requirement, you are required to contact the CFIA should any sheep or goat over 12 months die or be killed on your farm so that it may be tested for scrapie.  Regular inventories of the animals on your farm will also be done.

This testing gives the CFIA and you confidence that your farm is free of scrapie following the cleaning and disinfection and that you are not introducing new animals that are infected with scrapie.

Deadstock surveillance testing by the CFIA may be used to enter and advance in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program.

How do I know that my private information will not be shared with other people?

  • As directed by the Privacy Act and other federal statues, the CFIA is required to protect private information collected as part of an investigation.
  • This information is treated as confidential, unless otherwise indicated.

For More Information about Scrapie

For more information on Canada's approach to controlling and eradicating scrapie, visit the Scrapie webpage or contact your nearest CFIA office.

For More Information on Maintaining a Healthy Sheep Flock

Visit the National Sheep On-Farm Biosecurity Standard.

For More Information on Maintaining a Healthy Goat Herd

Visit the National Goat On-Farm Biosecurity Standard.

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