The euthanizing of 300 sheep from a Roseburg, Ore., ranch shows health officials are vigilant about stopping a livestock disease from spreading, the Oregon state veterinarian said Thursday.
Sheep growers, though, say they received too little information about the state's first case of scrapie since 2008.
"There's an awful lot of rumors going around. It seems like it would be appropriate to get as much information out about scrapie as possible, because it impacts the market for all of us," said Oregon Sheep Growers Association president John Fine, a Dixonville rancher.
State veterinarian Brad LeaMaster, DVM, said the 300 sheep were from a ranch east of Roseburg, though he declined to identify the rancher. One animal tested positive for scrapie, a fatal brain disease in sheep and goats comparable to mad cow disease, and the sheep were euthanized as a precaution.
"It's not an outbreak. It's one sheep," he said. "It's not a threat to public safety. It's certainly not a food safety issue."
For the past 10 years in Oregon, the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have worked together on a scrapie eradication campaign, said Lyndsay Cole, spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The affected Douglas County sheep was identified through a routine sampling of animals at a slaughter plant. Blood tests were taken on the rest of the flock, and the sheep identified as genetically susceptible to scrapie were euthanized.
"None of the meat from any of the animals that were depopulated entered the food chain," Cole said.
Scrapie has never been known to transfer to people, and it's not highly contagious, according to a USDA fact sheet. The disease most commonly spreads from ewe to offspring and to other lambs that come in contact with the placenta. Early signs of scrapie include the diseased animal scratching or rubbing against objects, like a fence post.
This case of scrapie was Oregon's third since 2005. In the past year, USDA has recorded 18 sheep with scrapie in the United States, including the one in Douglas County.
Reprinted in part from NRToday