Call to screen sheep flocks for BSE agent
SCIENTISTS have urged the government to step up checks on sheep flocks because of fears that the infective agent causing BSE in cattle may have jumped to sheep.
Although SEAC, the governments BSE advisory committee, says there is no need, at present, to recommend further action to protect public or animal health, it has concluded that more work is needed to determine the extent of scrapie in UK sheep and the strains of infective agent involved.
A sub-group of SEAC scientists has been established to develop further recommendations.
SEAC originally advised in July 1996, that further research to investigate the risk of BSE transmission to the national sheep flock was needed.
Almost a year later, the scientists reiterated their concern that the surveillance of scrapie needed to be improved.
Last August, the government launched its three-part strategy in response to the advice, involving an abattoir survey of sheep brains and a postal survey of farmers, due to begin nationally this autumn.
The final measure was the introduction of compulsory slaughter of scrapie suspects on July 29, since when 26 sheep have been culled and a further 32 suspect cases notified to MAFF. *