A fatal disease for sheep and goats, similar to BSE in cattle, has been detected in Alberta – reportedly in central Alberta.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says two flocks of sheep were confirmed to be infected with scrapie, a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects the central nervous system.
Similar diseases include chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and Creutzfelt-Jakob disease in humans.
Food inspection agency protocol is to quarantine and euthanize the animals both infected and at risk of contracting the disease, as well as investigate other potentially infected animals.
Darlene Stein, chair of the Alberta Lamb Producers, said the disease has a devastating impact on a farm, and as of Thursday, the food inspection agency had not provided any more details to her organization.
Meanwhile, the CBC has reported the two farms affected are located in central Alberta.
“At this point, we don’t know who has the disease,” said Stein, of Barrhead.
“We know that two farms have been quarantined, and that’s all we know. So for producers who have bought stock in the last few years, the question in the back of their mind is, ‘could I have potentially bought stock, or have stock, that came into contact with those animals.’”
She encouraged the farms impacted to reach out to Alberta Lamb Producers.
“It’s our job to try and help them through, and anything that we can do to be of assistance, certainly we would like to do.”
She said farmers with infected sheep could lose their entire life’s work.
“It basically means for the farmer that years of developing a flock, and careful selection of animals, is wiped out — all their work. And the animals may or may not even have the disease.
“It can be one animal that has it, and yet they’ve lost everything.”
Stein said the industry has a lot of potential, with more people than ever starting to eat lamb, so any type of reportable disease outbreak is concerning.
“As far as an industry, anything that has the potential to limit market opportunities creates a challenge and is a serious concern for all producers.”