Canada seeks new risk status for BSE

Canada could have negligible risk status for BSE by next March.

Under world animal health rules, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Ireland have controlled status because of recent cases of BSE, while the United States, Australia and New Zealand have negligible risk status.

“We are now in a situation where we are reaching that opportunity to apply for OIE negligible risk status,” said David Moss of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is preparing documents to show Canada has met certain requirements to gain lower risk status. Under OIE rules the last infected domestic animals must be born 11 years earlier than the application. The last case was in an Alberta cow born in March 2009, he said at the International Livestock Identification Association conference held at Spruce Meadows, Alta., July 15-17.

BSE is in a family of prion protein diseases that can cause animal disease and neurodegenerative diseases in humans, such as some forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are unusual because infection is caused by an aberrant prion.

“We make prion proteins all the time. We don’t know exactly what they do. We have some ideas,” said Kevin Keough, executive director of the Alberta Prion Research Institute.

“These agents have become more and more important in how we think about animal diseases and human diseases,” he said.

The prion institute was formed in 2005 to fund studies on diseases like BSE, chronic wasting disease, scrapie and some human conditions linked to misfolded prions. Alberta has the largest group of prion researchers in the world.

While BSE seems to have disappeared, chronic wasting disease is a serious problem in North America, said Keough.

It is a federally reportable disease and is receiving a lot of attention because it is spreading.

The CFIA reported a case in February in an elk and another in June in a white-tailed deer in Alberta.

Chronic wasting disease was first described in 1967 in a captive herd of deer at Colorado State University in the northeastern part of the state. It is spreading throughout North America and more recently was discovered in Scandinavian countries. Norwegians found it in reindeer and killed 2,000 animals this year and will continue to eradicate them in attempts to stop the disease.

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