We have been asked by our State Veterinarian, Dr. Mary Jane Lis and our Federal Veterinarian, Dr. Lech Szkudlarek to remind shepherds about keeping Connecticut compliant with the Federal Regulations for Scrapie Testing/Surveillance. It is important to keep us compliant as once we become non-compliant we will not be able to move sheep out of Connecticut.
Dr. Szkudlarek says, “The program’s goals are to eradicate classical scrapie from the United States and to meet World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) criteria for disease freedom. At the state level each state must meet yearly minimum testing quotas to comply with “scrapie consistent state” requirements.
Connecticut is still considered a “consistent state” for now in the USDA’s national Scrapie eradication program, which means that Connecticut follows and meets national guidelines for identifying and sampling sheep and goats” however separate quotas have since been set for goats and sheep and sheep numbers are falling behind. If you have a sheep that is over 18 months old that dies please let Dr Szkudlarek know ASAP as they can send someone to your farm to collect the necessary samples or you can submit the animal to the Connecticut Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UCONN for necropsy. There is a fee for necropsy that is subsidized in the amount of $100 by USDA and others. There is also a fee based courier service that will pick up the deceased animal and transport it to UCONN. To help us stay compliant please:
- call our area office at 508-363-2290 for assistance with testing (scrapie test is free!)
- in case of sick animal call , ask your attending veterinarian about scrapie testing and/or contact VS personnel directly for assistance
- if you are participating in SFCP , they can assist you with collection of required samples e.g. during routine culling /slaughter activities
The bottom line:
Your participation is essential to guarantee that Connecticut retains scrapie consistent state status!
If you have any questions or need assistance please call the USDA area office 508-363-2290 or
Lech Szkudlarek : 508-245-9767
Natalie Cohen: 860-625-0705
Animals must be Connecticut animals that have been residing in the state longer than 60 days and commingled with other animals of Connecticut origin over 18 months of age. Submissions may be in the form of dead animals - whole body submissions or heads of adults however sick younger animals with neurological signs would also qualify for testing.
If you have animals that you would like to submit for Scrapie testing, but do not want a subsidized necropsy at CVMDL, arrangements can be made with Dr. Lech Szkudlarek or Natalie to collect the samples at your farm or at the slaughter plant.
Transmissible Spongiform Encephalitis
“Scrapie” in Domestic Sheep and Goats
Scrapie is a family of fatal, degenerating neurological disease in domestic sheep and goats. Scrapie was first recognized in domestic sheep in Scotland over 200 years ago.* All breeds of sheep are susceptible, but the Suffolk breed in the US is at the highest risk due to their genetics. The cause of scrapie is a small piece of protein, called a prion that can be found in lymph and neural tissues. Unfortunately, it is a very resilient protein that is not easily destroyed. The disease can be transmitted genetically- adult to lamb, and between sheep from infected placentas- adult to adult. The disease can take 2 to 5 years to develop in an animal; so many generations of an entire flock could be infected well before the disease is identified on the farm. Genetic testing can be evaluated by blood samples sent to specific laboratories – consult your veterinarian.
Sheep clinically infected with scrapie may have an abnormal gait, they may “bunny-hop”, have spastic hind legs (hypermetric), or not be aware of where their front legs and feet are (proprioceptive deficits). They are generally weak, eating but emaciated, and can rub their wool off of their hindquarters and flanks until they are raw – hence the name “scrapie”. There is no known treatment for scrapie in sheep or goats.
Scrapie costs the United States sheep industry $20 million annually in direct loses and millions more in lost potential markets and flock productivity. Many programs have been instituted since 1952 to control scrapie. The current federal program is the Scrapie Flock Certification Program**. A flock has to be monitored for 5 years to be certified for the program.
The zoonotic potential (transmissible to people) of scrapie is unknown, but there is evidence that some variants of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are caused by ingestion of beef products contaminated with scrapie or scrapie-like organisms. Remember the “Mad Cow” outbreak in England? This was believed to be the result of cattle eating sheep offal in the feed rations. So, sheep by-products are now banned from the feed production market until we can certify our flocks as “Scrapie Free” nation wide - a great challenge for everyone involved in the sheep industry !!
The primary method of prevention is maintenance of a closed ewe flock, purchase of genetically resistant stock, or buying from a certified flock. There are already many certified flocks, and purchasing breeding stock from these producers is recommended. Information about participation in the federal program can be acquired through the CT Department of Agriculture and the Federal APHIS USDA.
*Terry R. Spraker, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVP
**Sheep and Goat Medicine, D.G. Pugh