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From: TSS ()
Subject: New Zealand Biosecurity concerned but not panicking over scrapie reports
Date: November 15, 2006 at 1:52 pm PST

New Zealand Biosecurity concerned but not panicking over scrapie reports
16 November 2006

Scientists in New Zealand say they are concerned but not panicking at the discovery of a rare brain disorder found in a British born sheep with New Zealand blood lines.


The Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Britain – New Zealand's most important export market for lamb – yesterday said the atypical, or unusual, form of scrapie had been detected in a six-year-old cheviot ewe.

The origins of the scrapie remains a mystery with the ewe's scrapie-free New Zealand parents having been kept in strict quarantine since being sent to Britain.

Biosecurity New Zealand head Barry O'Neill said today they were co-operating closely with British authorities.

There were a number of questions about the handling of the sheep in Britain, he said.

The sheep was born in the United Kingdom in 2000 and while it was understood it had originated from New Zealand genetic material it had lived in the United Kingdom for seven years, he said.

"We are very interested to know whether there's been any other genetic material from other sources that's been introduced into this block."

For instance he would like to know how the animals had been managed with respect to their feeding or medication that may have been used resulting in a risk factor coming into the block.

"That has absolutely nothing to do with New Zealand."

New Zealand had never identified atypical scrapie or classical scrapie, he said.

"We're recognised internationally as free of classical scrapie.

"We've been looking very hard for scrapie since the 1950s. We had an outbreak of classical scrapie in the South Island in the 1950s which was eradicated and since then our veterinarian profession has been extremely been vigilant looking for scrapie.

"We've examined thousands of brains looking for classical scrapie and found absolutely no evidence of this newly identified atypical scrapie."

Biosecurity was focused on trying to clarify where the source flocks which were exported to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s originated from, Dr O'Neill said.

"We're unsure at this stage if they exist but if they do exist we would wish to undertake some surveillance testing over the future weeks and months to identify if there is any remote possibility that sheep from these flocks could be involved."

Dr O'Neill said at this stage there were still many questions about how the flock of sheep were managed over the past seven years.

"We still strongly believe we are free of classical scrapie in New Zealand. We are still issuing those assurances to our trading partners and we have notified our trading partners and there have been no trade reaction which is what we would expect."

Scrapie was first diagnosed in sheep more than 250 years ago and Britain's mad cow disease is thought to have been started when scrapie-infected sheep were used in cattle food.

About 82,000 sheep in Britain are thought to have "atypical scrapie", with few clinical symptoms, compared with an estimated 56,000 with classical scrapie.

Lesions caused by the two forms are usually found in different parts of the brain, the classical form damaging the hind-brain, the atypical form the mid-brain.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3862954a3600,00.html

TSS




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