France fears outbreak of 'mad sheep' disease

27th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 26, 2006 (AFP) - France, which last week became the first European Union country to register the deadly bird flu in its commercial poultry sector, now fears it might have an outbreak of a rare strain of "mad sheep" disease, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday.

PARIS, Feb 26, 2006 (AFP) - France, which last week became the first European Union country to register the deadly bird flu in its commercial poultry sector, now fears it might have an outbreak of a rare strain of "mad sheep" disease, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday.

Two suspected cases of a rare strain of the brain-wasting disease, which is also called scrapie and ovine spongiform encephalopathy, have been identified on two different farms in central France, the ministry said in a statement issued on the second day of France's annual agricultural show.

"We will have more details in a few days," a source at the ministry said, while the ministerial statement said that a year of tests would be needed before a final assessment could be made.

The source said that given that the strain was "unknown it is important to know exactly what the consequences are and in what conditions it is transmissible."

A representative of the national ovine federation stressed that there was no risk to consumers.

"There is no risk for human consumption because since 'mad cow disease', whether it be for cattle or sheep, all risk materials, like brain, the bone marrow and the spleen are systematically removed before they are put on the market," Emmanuel Cost, the federation's deputy president, told AFP.

He said that neither of the sheep -- which had originated in the adjoining central departments of the Cher and the Nievre -- had been put on the market and the herds from which they came had been isolated and placed under surveillance.

However officials in the Cher later denied a case of scrapie had been detected in their region.

Scrapie was common in France in the 19th century, but only one case of the rare strain was publicly announced in a goat in 2004, an official for the French meat information centre said.

France's national flock has been in decline to eight million head today, from 9.4 million in 2000 to 11.5 million in 1988.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article