Sask. auditor urges better monitoring of animal disease

Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor says the provincial agriculture ministry should keep better records of livestock diseases.

In her report released Dec. 12, Judy Ferguson said Saskatchewan Agriculture has good systems in place but doesn’t always follow its own protocols.

The province maintains 14 diseases on the provincial notifiable disease list. It has full response plans for three: anthrax, rabies and porcine epidemic diarrhea.

The other 11 are monitored for reasons such as human health concerns, trade or industry concerns.

Ferguson noted the ministry didn’t keep information on how it decided which diseases were on the list or information to support its involvement in certain diseases.

“Sometimes what we see in government … where there’s smaller units they tend to use more informal processes,” she said. “As auditors we come in and do that not so gentle nudge and reminder that we put in these processes for a reason and we should be using them.”

Chief veterinary officer Dr. Betty Althouse said that is a fair finding.

“We’ll do a better job going forward,” she said.

That includes reviewing the fact sheets on each disease and adding more information about why they are monitored and which records must be kept.

She said the three diseases listed with full response plans are reviewed annually, but reviews should be carried out for all of the diseases on the list.

The other 11 diseases are: bovine anaplasmosis, equine herpes virus, infectious laryngotracheitis, Lyme disease, malignant catarrhal fever, Q-fever, salmonella enteritidis, swine delta coronavirus, swine influenza, transmissible gastroenteritis and West Nile virus.

The list was first developed in 2013 when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency decided to no longer respond to anthrax and rabies, even though they are both on the federal notifiable list.

Others were added in 2014, after advice of industry, veterinarians and others.

For example, West Nile virus is a concern in the horse population.

“Monitoring the disease in horses is useful to inform human health risk as well,” Althouse said.

Lyme disease is an emerging concern although there are no established populations in Saskatchewan of the ticks that cause it.

“Infected ticks can be carried into the province by migrating birds.”

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