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Scrapie Detected on North Iceland Sheep Farm

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Scrapie Detected on North Iceland Sheep Farm

Ram

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Scrapie, a fatal disease affecting sheep, has broken out on Urðir farm in Svarfaðardalur, North Iceland, Vísir reports. This is the second time the disease has been found at the farm. It is a hard blow for the farm’s residents, who had to put down all of their sheep in 2003 due to the disease.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the nervous system of sheep. It is thought to have arrived in Iceland via an English ram that was transported to Skagafjörður fjord, North Iceland, in 1878. The disease is infectious and transmissible between sheep, making it necessary to quarantine and destroy the affected animals. Scrapie can persist in flocks and in the environment for decades. Fifteen cases of the disease have occurred around Iceland in the last 15 years.

“This is always a hard blow,” stated Gunnhildur Gylfadóttir, chairperson of the Agricultural Union of Eyjafjörður. “It is very emotional when this happens and wakes up old ghosts for every single person. All our sheep are together in the summer so farmers are wondering when scrapie will show up in their sheep.”

All sheep at Urðir farm must now be put down and residents must undergo extensive efforts to minimize the risk of recurrence, such as burn all wood in the farm buildings and replace all soil around them.

Sheep farmers in Svarfaðardalur have been hit hard by the disease in the past. In the late 90s, all sheep in the valley had to be put down due to an outbreak, and farms waited one to three years before acquiring new sheep to minimize the chances of another outbreak. The last case of Scrapie in the area occurred around a decade later, in 2009.

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