CFIA alters designation | Disease will become notifiable rather than reportable
Anaplasmosis will be removed from the list of reportable diseases next year.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced the pending change Feb. 25, noting it will take effect April 1, 2014.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association greeted the news with enthusiasm.
“It’s something we’ve been asking for for probably close to 14 years,” said CCA general manager Rob McNabb. “We’ve always felt it was much more of a production limiting disease” than a major herd health threat or trade issue, he said.
“The threat of the irritant, to me, was always bigger than the actual disease itself.”
BCCA general manager Kevin Boon also welcomed the news.
“We wish it would have happened about four years ago so we hadn’t had to go through the last episode of anaplasmosis that wasn’t anaplasmosis. That was an exercise in frustration.”
Boon referred to a 2010 situation in which the disease was misdiagnosed in B.C. cattle, eventually causing the quarantine of 25,000 head and costing affected producers more than $200,000.
Cam Dahl, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers, was less enthused.
“We do have some concerns, and of course the presence of anaplasmosis can significantly restrict the movement of cattle, and has, from Manitoba.”
He said a main concern is ensuring producers can still have their animals tested if necessary once the CFIA ceases to respond to anaplasmosis cases.
“I think in particular, we will no longer have the federal labs to do the testing, so we want to make sure that the provincial veterinary labs are accredited to do anaplasmosis testing, and I don’t think they are at this point.”
The CFIA said the disease, which affects cattle, sheep, goats and wild ruminants, poses no risk to human health or food safety and will be moved to the list of notifiable diseases, an indication of its less serious nature compared to zoonotic diseases.
“By taking steps to modernize Canada’s approach to anaplasmosis, the CFIA will be able to focus more resources on emerging disease and foreign animal disease,” the agency said.
Anaplasmosis, which is established in the United States, is caused by a micro-organism most commonly spread by ticks and biting flies. It attacks red blood cells.
The severity of the disease varies by age of the animal, with younger ones better able to fight. It is rarely fatal in young cattle, but infected animals remain a source of disease for life.
McNabb said anaplasmosis is a reportable disease because Canada purports to be free of it. He said it has always been present here but at below reportable levels.
The bigger problem is unreliable early tests that require producers to muster cattle, quarantine them and subject them to repeated tests by the CFIA.
Compensation is available for cattle that die of anaplasmosis, but mortality is rare and there is no compensation for the required increase in cattle handling, which causes stress on cattle and their handlers.
“It’s caused a lot of problems for people that did find it,” said McNabb.
The change means the CFIA will no longer respond to anaplasmosis cases or conduct surveillance to verify Canada’s disease status.