September 15, 2003
The National Scrapie Eradication Program: Questions and Answers
The following scrapie question-and-answer piece is the fourth such column to appear in Sheep Industry News. It is being brought to you by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees the National Scrapie Eradication Program. If you have a program-related question you?d like answered, please e-mail it to Sheep Industry News Editor Laura Gerhard at email@example.com, fax it to her attention at (303) 771-8200 or write: ASI; Attn: Laura Gerhard; 6911 S. Yosemite St.; Centennial, CO 80112-1414.
Q: What is the RSSS program?
A: The Regulatory Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance program. The program is designed to sample mature cull sheep at slaughter and test them for scrapie in order to identify infected flocks.
Q: What sheep from my flock would be tested in this program?
A: Sheep that are slaughtered at cull sheep plants may be sampled.
Q: How do I know that the sheep sampled in this program can be accurately traced to the flock of origin?
A: Producers are required to identify mature cull sheep with official eartags prior to moving them in commerce. These tags will be used to trace the sheep back to the flock of origin. Producers can request these tags by calling toll free at 1-866-USDA-TAG.
Q: If I am officially notified that a sheep from my flock has tested positive for scrapie as the result of RSSS, what can I expect to happen?
A: A federal or state veterinary will visit you to determine whether your flock is an infected or source flock. In order to be an infected or source flock an infected animal must have either been born on the premises or lambed on the premises. If it is determined that your flock is an infected or source flock, a flock clean-up plan will be developed for your flock. In most cases genetic-based flock clean-up plans are recommended. Genetic flock clean-up plans require genotyping all the breeding sheep, depopulating the QQ ewes and any does, and then retesting to ensure that all the QQ ewes have been removed. The genotyping is provided by USDA and indemnity is paid for the depopulated animals. Once the premise is disinfected the flock is released from restriction and put on a monitoring plan. The remaining sheep may move unrestricted.
Q: What assurances do I have that the testing that has taken place is accurate?
A: Testing for scrapie is only done at APHIS contract labs. These labs are required to be inspected and to follow standard test procedures. The test that is used, immunohistochemistry, is accepted internationally as the gold standard for scrapie testing.