Scrapie - What to expect if your animals may be infected

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Introduction

This brochure provides Canadian sheep and goat producers with information about what happens when scrapie is suspected or detected on their farm.

About scrapie

Scrapie is a fatal disease that affects the central nervous system of sheep and goats. There is no treatment or vaccine currently available for this disease.

Although there is currently no scientific evidence that scrapie can affect human health, the disease does have implications for animal production and trade. In Canada, scrapie is a "federally reportable disease." This means that producers and veterinarians must notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of all suspected cases.

Animals with scrapie may show a number of different signs as the disease progresses. Signs of scrapie include:

  • loss of body condition, despite a good appetite;
  • changes in behaviour, such as aggression;
  • head tremors;
  • lack of coordination or abnormal gaits; and
  • itchiness.

Scrapie is a disease that develops slowly. Clinical signs are only seen in adult animals, typically between two and five years of age. Once an animal shows signs of scrapie, it will die within one or two months.

Scrapie disease control

The CFIA takes disease control actions in response to the discovery of an animal with scrapie. While disease response situations can vary, the steps involved in a scrapie response normally include some or all of the following:

  • initial investigation;
  • quarantine;
  • detailed investigation;
  • destruction, disposal and associated compensation;
  • cleaning and disinfection; and
  • surveillance testing for five years.

Initial investigation

Scrapie is transmitted from an infected female to her offspring at birth, or to other animals exposed to the birth environment, through fluid and tissue from the placenta. Therefore, the CFIA conducts initial investigations on farms where infected animals may have been born and farms on which infected females may have recently given birth.

Quarantine

Quarantines are placed on sheep and goats that have been exposed to scrapie. Depending on the management of the flock, quarantines affect all sheep and goats on birth farms and farms where infected females have recently lambed or kidded.

Under the quarantine, no sheep or goats may enter or leave the property. In addition, movement restrictions may be placed on certain animal products, such as manure. All other animals on the farm and their products, as well as sheep or goat milk, wool, hair and semen can enter or leave the farm with CFIA approval. As well, the CFIA may grant licences to move sheep and goats younger than 12 months of age off the premises for slaughter.

While your property is under quarantine, your responsibilities include:

  • maintaining fences and gates around the farm to control the movement of animals and animal products;
  • informing all persons entering the farm of the quarantine;
  • reporting all sick and dying animals, and any that escape the farm; and
  • cleaning and decontaminating farm tools and equipment that may have been exposed to infected animals.

Detailed investigation

Once the quarantine is in place, the CFIA will immediately begin assessing the sheep and goats on the farm for signs of scrapie. They will also review farm records to determine recent movements of animals in or out of the farm. To help CFIA staff in their investigation, you may be asked to provide the following:

  • a detailed description of farm management practices;
  • animal birth records;
  • records of purchase / sale of animals;
  • animal slaughter records;
  • a map of the farm; and
  • contact information for farm veterinarians.

Using records and other information provided, CFIA staff will trace the movements of any sheep and/or goats that may have been exposed to scrapie or may have been the source of infection.

Your cooperation and that of any other parties involved is critical to the success of the investigation.

Destruction and disposal

All sheep and goats aged 12 months and younger that may have been exposed to an infected birthing environment are ordered slaughtered at an abattoir. Meat from these animals may enter the marketplace. According to Health Canada, there is no known link between scrapie and human health.

Research shows that sheep with a particular genetic makeup are more at risk of developing scrapie. Therefore, exposed adult sheep are subjected to a blood test, and those determined to be at high risk for scrapie are destroyed and disposed of. The animals considered to be at low risk for the disease remain on the farm.

Genetic profiles that can consistently predict a high risk of developing scrapie have not yet been developed for goats, therefore all adult goats on the farm must be humanely destroyed and disposed of.

When the CFIA district veterinarian determines which animals on a farm must be destroyed, he or she issues an "order for destruction." It outlines what is to be destroyed, as well as the method of destruction and what will be provided to you in compensation.

Common disposal methods include slaughter at an abattoir for animals less than 12 months of age, burial on the farm or at another site*, controlled rendering or incineration. Within scrapie control procedures, all associated destruction, disposal and transportation costs may be covered by the CFIA.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Once all destruction and disposal activities have been completed, the farm must be properly cleaned and disinfected. This process includes:

  • disposing of potentially contaminated materials and items, such as bedding, manure and waste materials;
  • cleaning and disinfecting areas where a scrapie-positive animal was born or had lambed or kidded during the 18 months prior to clinical signs;
  • disposing of surface soil from outdoor lambing areas; and
  • cleaning and decontaminating all metal and wood structures with which scrapie-positive animals may have come into contact.

*On-farm burial must comply with provincial and municipal waste management requirements.

Compensation

Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate owners of sheep and/or goat operations for animals ordered destroyed during disease response situations. Compensation awards are based on market value, up to the maximum amounts established by the regulations less any carcass value paid by an abattoir.

For more details on the compensation process, please see the brochure Animal Health Compensation: What to expect when an animal is ordered destroyed.

The CFIA district veterinarian will assist you in developing an effective cleaning and decontaminating plan. Actions and costs associated with cleaning and decontaminating are your responsibility.

Removal of the quarantine

Once cleaning and decontaminating are complete, the CFIA assesses the farm to determine when the quarantine may be removed from the premises. Following removal of the quarantine, you may introduce new animals to the farm in accordance with regular CFIA and provincial permit requirements.

Following removal of the quarantine, you may introduce new animals to the farm in accordance with regular CFIA and provincial permit requirements.

Surveillance

For five years after all quarantines have been lifted, the CFIA requires that you submit samples of any mature sheep or goats that die on farm for scrapie testing. This testing gives the CFIA and you confidence that no residual infectivity remains on the property and that you are not introducing new animals that are infected with scrapie. Surveillance testing by the CFIA may be used to enter the voluntary scrapie certification program.

Confidentiality

As directed by the Privacy Act and other federal statues, the CFIA is required to protect private information collected. Any information provided by you during a disease response situation is treated as confidential, unless otherwise indicated.

More information about scrapie

For more information on Canada's approach to controlling and eradicating scrapie, call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 or visit www.inspection.gc.ca

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