Scrapie Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ is from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- What is Scrapie?
- Why do we need to eradicate Scrapie?
- How is Scrapie contracted and what are the signs?
- How do I know if my animals have Scrapie?
- How can I prevent Scrapie from appearing in my herd?
- What happens if Scrapie is found in my herd?
- How is Scrapie handled in the United States?
- What is considered official animal identification?
- What is the difference between the mandatory and the voluntary program?
- Are the rules different in Florida?
- How do I enroll in the SEP or the SFCP?
What is Scrapie?
Scrapie is a chronic, fatal disease of the nervous system that is more common in sheep than in goats. A unique organism called a prion causes Scrapie, and it is in the group of diseases classified as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE), or degenerative diseases of the brain. It can take from 2 to 5 years for sheep and goats after infection for symptoms to appear. In 2007, 331 cases of Scrapie were reported in the United States. Since 1990, 19 cases of Scrapie were reported in goats, the last case was confirmed in September 2007. From October 1, 2007 to February 29, 2008, 101 cases of Scrapie were reported in the United States. No cases of Scrapie have occurred in sheep or goats of Florida origin.
Why do we need to eradicate Scrapie?
The National Scrapie Eradication Program (SEP) was established to increase the health status of sheep and goats and decrease production losses of producers. The presence of Scrapie also prevents the export of breeding stock, semen, and embryos to many other countries. Over the past decade, increased attention and concern is being paid to all TSEs, including Scrapie, as a result of the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy (FSE) in cats and new type of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Europeans.
How is Scrapie contracted and what are the signs?
An animal’s DNA determines if the animal will get Scrapie. The organism is believed to spread from mother to offspring through the placenta and its fluids. The early symptoms are a nervous animal with muscle tremors, wobbly gait, or other nervous conditions such as tremors, head pressing, and stargazing. These symptoms mimic other diseases so diagnosing Scrapie can be difficult. Intense itching and rubbing is more common in sheep than goats. It may take 5 years for symptoms to appear with 1 to 6 months to progress to a point where the animal dies. There is currently no treatment for Scrapie.
How do I know if my animals have Scrapie?
Scrapie can be diagnosed by a veterinarian who has knowledge of the animal’s history and feeding habits and by taking a biopsy of the lymphoid tissue on the inside of the third eyelid or rectal tissue. If an animal has died, microscopic examination of brain tissue can detect the telltale (“sponge-like”) abnormalities in the tissue.
How can I prevent Scrapie from appearing in my herd?
The disease may occur in “families,” so it is wise to purchase animals from herds that are enrolled in the Voluntary Scrapie Certification Program.
What happens if Scrapie is found in my herd?
Exposed and infected herds that participate in the monitoring program will be provided (through the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) :
- Live Animal Testing.
- Compensation for Scrapie suspect, high-risk and positive animals, which must be euthanized.
- Testing for animals that have been sold from infected herds/flocks.
How is Scrapie handled in the United States?
The National Scrapie Eradication Program as established by the USDA/APHIS is based on the following three principles:
- Identification of preclinical animals, by testing live animals, and surveillance and slaughter of those that test positive.
- Tracing infected animals to their herd of origin.
- Herd cleanup through the use of genetic-based strategies.
What is considered official animal identification?
Nationally, the mandatory SEP requires that sheep and goats over 18 months of age be officially identified with USDA approved ID (ear tags, tattoos, or in some circumstances, microchips) when moved interstate, exhibited, or upon change of ownership. USDA tags are provided free to producers. Microchips are acceptable if the producer is enrolled in the voluntary SFCP. For purebred animals, the breed registration tattoo is acceptable as identification.
What is the difference between the mandatory and the voluntary program?
The mandatory program requires official identification of sheep and goats that are being moved off their premises of origin over 18 months of age; no inspection required; ear tags are free (from USDA) to the producer; requires tamper-resistant identification; may use white or blue tags, microchips, or registered tattoos.
The voluntary program officially identifies all sheep and goats over 1 year of age. After initial inspection and testing, the enrolled flock is inspected annually; SFCP-Enrolled herd owners must purchase their own approved identification; requires permanent, unique, tamper-evident identification; may use white or colored tags, microchips, or registered tattoos.
Are the rules different in Florida?
Florida is considered a Scrapie compliant state, adopting the National Scrapie Eradication Program guidelines. However, Florida rules 5C-3, Importation of Animals, 5C-4, Admission of Animals for Exhibition and 5C-29, Scrapie, differ from the national program identification requirements in that animals of any age moving off the farm must be officially identified.
How do I enroll in the SEP or the SFCP?
To enroll in either program and obtain official identification tags, contact the USDA office:
USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services
8100 15th Place, Gainesville, FL 32606, (352) 313-3060
For more information, please contact:
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Division of Animal Industry
407 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Florida Meat Goat Association
6378 SW CR-791
Lake Butler, FL 32054
Florida Dairy Goat Association
6449 SW 63rd St.
Lake Butler, FL 32054
Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida
303 SE Rodney Dicks Drive
Lake City, FL 32025
Last Updated: December 30, 2010