Scrapie - Advisory Notes for Farmers (PB9446)

Why is it vital to report scrapie?

A continuing scrapie problem in a flock would probably severely affect a farmer’s business. An additional factor is that, whilst this disease does not appear to pose any direct risk to human health, there is a theoretical possibility that BSE is present in sheep in the UK. Although, so far, it has not been found naturally, laboratory research has shown that sheep can be artificially infected with BSE. Because the external signs of scrapie and experimentally induced BSE are similar, if BSE is in sheep, scrapie may be “masking” it. Therefore, to demonstrate that everything is being done to protect public and animal health, the Government needs to check any suspicion of a scrapie-like illness in sheep and goats.

Reporting any suspect animals is therefore vital in this regard and at the same time provides much needed materials to support the Government’s research programme which aims to:

  • improve knowledge of the disease
  • improve control of the disease
  • protect animal welfare
  • prevent financial difficulties for the farmer by preventing loss of animals, including valuable breeding stock

As we improve our knowledge about the disease, where it is, how it spreads, and how it can be detected, we may have an opportunity to develop an even more effective long-term control programme. All farmers are therefore encouraged to report their suspicion of the disease, not just because it is a legal requirement, but in order to safeguard the future of the sheep industry. Any evidence that scrapie cases are not being reported also undermines Government efforts to improve or maintain export trade in sheep and sheep products.

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