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Scrapie certification program is now in effect.

The USDA has established a voluntary certification program to reduce the incidence and control the spread of scrapie, a disease of sheep and goats. (See "What is scrapie".)

The long-term goal is the eradication of scrapie in the United States.

The program establishes, among other things, an official identification system for certain sheep and goats in flocks participating in the program. It includes further scientific research on the nature and spread of scrapie, and requires development of additional methods for diagnosis and control, such as a live-animal diagnostic test for the disease.

The USDA's APHIS is also requiring a permanent indelible mark on certain sheep and goats as a condition for interstate movement. The animals which are required to be identified are: scrapie positive sheep and goats, and sheep and goats from infected flocks and source flocks. Exceptions are sheep and goats, other than high-risk animals, from infected and source flocks that meet certain specified requirements; and high-risk animals less than one year of age going to slaughter.

The rule went into effect Oct. 1, 1992.

See your vet for help

As a supplement to the scrapie program, a group of small ruminant veterinarians and sheep producers have drafted a flock health certification program. This will be presented to the American Sheep Industry in january, 1993, and to the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners in February. The primary purpose is "to enhance the health and well-being of the national sheep population." This includes recognizing the flock health status of participants on five levels, indicated by stars.

A self-study guide required for entering the program is being prepared, and will be available from veterinarians.

What is scrapie?

Scrapie is a progressive, fatal disease of sheep, and less often goats, which affects the nervous system. It's characterized by intense itching, an altered gait, and debility. It has been a serious disease in Europe for 200 years, and recent outbreaks in the U. S. and Canada have usually been attributed to the introduction of sheep from Europe.

It starts slowly. Affected sheep become more excitable, and may exhibit slight tremors of the head and neck.

But the most characteristic sign is intense itching, usually starting over the rump. Because of the itching, the animal may not be able to eat and rest normally. In addition, the wool becomes dry and brittle. This, combined with itching that may cause rubbing and even chewing to stem the itching, results in loss of fleece over large areas of the body.

In later stages, the animal will be unable to rise.

Animals can live six weeks to six months after the onset of the disease. It is usually transmitted from parents to offspring, and there is no known cure.
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Title Annotation:includes related article describing scrapie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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