21 April 2000

Flock owners fail to report scrapie

A NATIONAL postal scrapie survey indicates that many flock owners are under-reporting this notifiable disease to MAFF, or confusing it with scab.

The Apr 15 issue of Vet Record says the survey indicates that 15% of flock owners thought they had seen a case of scrapie on their farm, with close to 3% seeing a case within the year prior to the survey.

However, these results are at odds with the number of cases reported to MAFF. The reports author, Linda Hoinville from VLA, Addlestone, Surrey, suggests that as few as 13% of farmers currently suspecting they may have cases of scrapie are reporting them.

Replies from over 7000 questionnaires sent out in 1998 by a joint committee from the VLA, Institute of Animal Health and ADAS show a degree of confusion about the disease, which may indicate mis-diagnosis on farms.

The report says 15% of respondents would treat scrapie by dipping or injecting animals. This, it says, implies confusion between scrapie and other sheep diseases, such as sheep scab, and indicates a need to educate flockmasters about scrapie and its control.

As well as these observations, Dr Hoinville says there is more chance of scrapie in purebred than commercial flocks. But the reasons for this could be widespread and range from purebreds being more susceptible to scrapie, to different management practices, and purebred breeders being more able to spot the disease.

There were also some geographical variations with the highest proportion of affected flocks being in Yorks, Humberside and Shetland. This could be partly explained by producers in these regions being involved in scrapie research programmes. &#42