ARCHIVED - Canada's scrapie control measures critical to animal health and economic sustainability of livestock industry

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Statement from Canada’s Chief Veterinary Officer

OTTAWA, May 3, 2012: Recent media attention has focussed on scrapie and Canada’s approach to managing this livestock disease. As public discussion around this issue continues, it’s important to emphasize that scrapie is internationally recognized as a serious disease that demands science-based control measures.

This is why all suspected cases of the disease must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which is responsible for notifying the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) when cases are confirmed. The significant animal health and economic implications of scrapie are another important reason that Canada instituted a scrapie eradication program in concert with industry in 2005.

While there is currently no scientific evidence that scrapie can affect humans, Health Canada recommends that infected animals should not enter the human food supply.

Scrapie is fatal to sheep and goats. Regrettably, there is no treatment or vaccine for the disease. Responsibly dealing with diseases like scrapie is critical to protecting animal health and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the livestock industry, on which thousands of livelihoods depend. Not surprisingly, there is broad support within industry and the animal health community to eradicate scrapie from Canadian flocks and herds.

Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. The disease is extremely difficult to detect. Infected animals may not appear sick, and there is no test to definitively rule out scrapie in a live animal. Scrapie can only be confirmed through tests conducted on brain tissue.

Because of these realities, premises are placed under strict quarantine when the disease is suspected, and  potentially infected and  high risk animals are humanely destroyed. The CFIA conducts stringent definitive testing at its laboratory in Ottawa, which is held to the highest international standards and is recognized as an OIE international reference laboratory for scrapie.

The CFIA recognizes that the steps required to control and eradicate scrapie have a significant impact on affected sheep and goat producers. The Agency has empathy for those whose flocks are determined to be infected and makes every effort to work with owners in a consistent, respectful and equitable manner. Based on the strong, active participation and support of industry and veterinarians across the country, we continue to take positive steps toward scrapie eradication.

Dr. Brian Evans
Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

For media inquiries

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Media relations: 613-773-6600

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