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Scrapie: the lesson we must learn Published online: 23 Feb 2011.

To cite this article: (1978) Scrapie: the lesson we must learn, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 26:9, 217-217, DOI: 10.1080/00480169.1978.34546 To link to this article:

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Scrapie: the lesson we must learn

After the diagnosis of scrapie in an East Friesian ewe on the Mana Island quarantine station in September 1976, The Council of the New Zealand Veterinary Association sent the following telegram to the Hon. D. Mcintyre, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheges:-

"The New Zealand Veterinary Association continues to believe that the introduction of exotic breeds of sheep into this country is associated with unwarranted risks to the sheep industry Stop The confirmation ofscrapie on Mana Island confirms this view and the association believes that the elimination ofall risks requires the slaughter ofall sheep on Mana Island and Crater Block Stop Thompson Secretary. "

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Subsequent events have shown that this advice was only too true and that a slaughter policy which either plays down, or ignores, the horizontal spread of scrapie is inadequate. The Association should take no delight in being proved right on a matter of such great importance to our sheep industry. Rather, it should take steps to ensure that, in future, we see no more such ventures which gamble with the health of our national herd and flock. The international credibility of of our veterinary services has received a severe blow in a situation where the very best veterinary advice has been largely ignored. For our livestock and edible animal products to remain competitive and have full access to international markets, it is abundantly clear that they must be of the highest quality and be given the best possible certificate of health. Whether we like it or not, the close similarity of the scrapie agent to that of Creutzfeldt-lakob disease in man throws a considerable shadow over the public health acceptability of meat from scrapie-infected flocks. The fact that scrapie can also be transmitted to several species of monkey lends strength to this attitude. Added to which, the well-known resistance of the scrapie agent to heat indicates that it might not be destroyed in the cooking process. We could not afford to be complacent on this issue. No other country in the world relies so heavily upon sheep to support its economy, and animal health policies that are acceptable in other countries, may be inappropriate for us. As an island nation, we enjoy particular advantages in the sphere of animal health. These should not be frittered away by allowing the entry of exotic disease, or even risking such entry, through dubious quarantine procedures. Scrapie was not the only potential risk associated with the importation of exotic sheep. Pulmonary adenomatosis or jaagsiekte, and chronic progressive pneumonia or maedi, are two other insidious diseases with long incubation periods which might also have been imported. Other diseases could be added to this list of potential trouble to our sheep industry. It is both unfair and unwise for so much responsibility in the field of quarantine to be placed upon so few veterinary officers of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The New Zealand Veterinary Association has made it clear that it has always been ready to offer assistance from its specialist branches and technical committee. The knowledge and experience of Veterinary School staff should also be used as much as possible. It is important that future decisions on possible importation of sheep, and any other livestock, should be made according to the best vetefinary advice, and that veterinarians can clearly be seen to be in control and that they are defended from the pressures of vested or political interests. The Animal Health Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is the guardian of the

health of our flocks and herds. Decisions taken today can have effects lasting 50 years or more. Short-term considerations must be seen in this perspective. There is already some talk of semen being a possible mode of importation of ovine genetic material. It must be emphasised that there is insufficient knowledge to indicate that this approach is without risk, although future research might change the situation. It has been difficult enough to persuade some agricultural scientists that there are special problems associated with the control and eradication of a "slow virus" disease such as scrapie which has such a long and variable incubation period. It should also be appreciated that any experimental protocol which is designed to evaluate the safety of importations of ovine semen is going to be spread over a very long period of time. fressure to import so-called "new" genetic material comes from a wide variety of persons and groups. These include individual stockowners, stock and station agents, artificial breeding organisations and agricultural scientists. In response to requests for importations, there must flow a logical sequence of decisions that will ensure the best possible result. The requirements for new genetic material must first be defined and it should be clearly established beforehand that it cannot be obtained from within New Zealand. The benefits and disadvantages of importation need to be weighed up on a long-term basis, with future marketing of animal products taking at least equal place with theoretical, micro-economical calculations. Sectional interests need to be subservient to the long-term national good and the need for new genetic material must be established beyond all doubt. At that point a detailed study should establish the conditions of maximum safety under which the importation might be allowed. Before a country can be selected as a suitable source for importations, there must be an extremely detailed investigation ofits animal-health status, and this investigation must go well beyond the scheduled diseases and be interpreted in the light or the efficiency of its veterinary diagnostic service. Similarly, much more information needs to be obtained on properties from which the stock will originate. Accurate long-term records of reproductive performance, for example, would be essential information in relation to importation of pigs. Technological advances now allow alternative methods of importation. Caesarian-derived or minimal-disease animals, frozen semen or ova, are some of the choices before us. Having decided on the best method, this must be the on 0' method we use. The recent importation of new genetic material for the pig industry illustrates a loose approach which must be corrected. Both live pigs and semen have been imported. Breeds mentioned for importation are as diverse as the Yorkshire, Landrace, Duroc and Lacombe; hardly a close definition ofthe "required" genetic material. It might be argued that our pig industry is small and its exports are minimal, but this may not always be the case. Surely the pig industry is entitled to the same quality of service as other livestock industries? It should also be remembered that many serious diseases of pigs are transmissible to other species. No quarantine exercise is complete without a contingency plan for the possibility offailure. All importations oflivestock are associated with some risk. An integral part of any importation plan must be that the Chief Veterinary Officer has full authority to order the slaughter of animals under quarantine, or under post-quarantine surveillance, at any time that he thinks that this is in the best interests of animal health. The Chief Veterinary Officer has an unenviable task, he deserves every support.

Scrapie: the lesson we must learn.

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