Quarantine continues following Alberta scrapie discovery

Two farms in central Alberta remain under quarantine as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency continues an investigation into a case of scrapie confirmed June 21 in one sheep.

The infected animal had lived in more than one place so two separate flocks are involved. Exact locations were not revealed, standard practice when reportable livestock diseases are found.

In an update provided in late July, the CFIA said only one scrapie-infected animal has been found and the source remains unknown.

Alberta Lamb Producers said the CFIA has now identified 11 animals on one farm that it deemed were susceptible to scrapie, revealed through genotyping. They were killed along with 24 lambs under nine months old.

“This humane destruction is required under the scrapie program. Post mortem testing is underway for the 11 scrapie susceptible animals over 12 months of age,” the ALP said.

On the second farm, where the scrapie-positive animal most recently lived, 28 animals were identified as susceptible and were killed along with any lambs under nine months old.

No animals from either premise have or will enter the food system, the ALP said.

Farmers who lose animals through the investigation and eradication process are compensated for losses to a maximum of $1,200 for registered sheep and $825 for non-registered ones.

Scrapie is a federally reportable disease in Canada that can affect sheep and goats. It is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in the same broad category as BSE and chronic wasting disease.

Cases are periodically found across Canada in low numbers and are handled through a CFIA protocol for investigation and eradication.

Two cases were confirmed in Manitoba goats in 2018 and nine incidents in sheep and goats were reported in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec in 2017. Other cases have been found in previous years.

Canada has a national scrapie eradication program and has been working to eliminate the disease through surveillance, controlling it on farms where it is detected and providing support for a scrapie flock certification program.

The disease has a long incubation period, which can allow infected animals to spread the illness before it is detected.

Symptoms vary but can include behavioral changes such as aggression, tremors and abnormal gait. Infected animals pose no health risk to humans.

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