Deadly Sheep Disease Hits Douglas County

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. — Around 300 sheep in Douglas County are being euthanized after the Department of Agriculture found they were at a high risk for a deadly sheep disease.  It’s a disease known to be deadly to sheep called Scrapie that’s back in Oregon for the first time in five years.

“Scrapie is not a public health threat nor is it a food safety issue,” said Dr. Brad LeaMaster, Oregon’s State Veterinarian. Dr. LeaMaster said the illness is the sheep equivalent to Mad Cow Disease. It effects the neurological system of older sheep, but unlike Mad Cow, it’s not a threat to humans.

“It’s never, never been reported to be a diseasse that can infect people,: said LeaMaster. But this disease is a large concern for farmers. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture steps in to help the control of the disease through money allocated into a federal program.

When sheep go through slaughter, they are always tested for Scrapie. That’s how the state found out about this recent Douglas County Case. “The slaughter sample was taken in June and we were notified of this positive result at the end of August,” said LeaMaster.

Now 300 sheep on one farm are at risk for contracting the disease and are being killed. “We don’t know if they’re infected yet, so we know they’re high risk,” said LeaMaster.

That risk is worrying area farmers concerned for their own livestock. KEZI 9 News received multiple calls from farmers in the Roseburg area who wanted to stay anonymous. It’s unclear which farm is being investigated, but the Department of Agriculture confirms this case is in Douglas County.

State officials said the next step will be finding where the infected sheep came from and if any other local farms have sheep from the same blood line who are at risk for Scrapie.


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  1. Carolyn says:

    Wait a minute.. so these 300 sheep, are at a “high risk” for contracting Scrapies, so they are going to be killed? Seriously? Why are they not being tested?? I don’t understand this. It is not right..Quarantine, Observe, Document. Record! It is not a threat to humans. If they euthanize.. the meat cannot even be utilized for dog food.

    What a tragedy.. Bureaucracy at it’s finest.

  2. IdahoSheep says:

    Currently there is NO test for Scrapie other than on the brain of a dead animal. There is a test for Scrapie on live animals in the works. However, it may be a few years still before it’s available.

    I agree that since it’s not contagious to humans, to not use the meat is a crime.

  3. Sharon says:

    If these sheep do have scrapie it also puts thousands of other sheep at risk of misery. It is highly contagious.

    1. sheepman says:

      Scrapie ISN’T highly contagious and doesn’t put “thousands of other sheep at risk.”

      It’s mainly transmitted from ewe to lamb via the colostrum shortly after birth.

      It can be transmitted by one sheep licking up the spittle of another–something sheep HATE so much they usually won’t even touch hay “breathed on” by another sheep.

      The reason they’re simply killed is for convenience of the govt. officials. Don’t get me wrong, the officials usually pay the grower well for the sheep they kill.

      97 percent of scrapie cases since first introduced into the U.S. in 1947 have been from one single breed: Suffolk. The rest have been Suffolk crosses and the odd sheep on mixed-breed farms that ate or drank after a Suffolk in the flock.

      The disease’s long incubation time means the affected individuals pass on scrapie to their lambs for years before they show any symptoms. Even THEIR lambs grow up and have more lambs before Granny Ewe shows symptoms.

      The best thing Suffolk growers can do for themselves is select ewes OVER 5 years old to found a flock–if they don’t show symptoms by then, they don’t have it.

      Second, NEVER sell or send old ewes with any symptoms of scrapie to auction or slaughter. Instead, butcher it yourself and enjoy, or shoot, shovel and shut up. Trouble is, old Suffolk ewes tend to be very gamy tasting.

      If Suffolk growers had policed their own ranks, this gestapo-like activity would never have happened.


  4. Lynda says:

    Does the USDA intend to release the owner’s name so other sheep producers can be made aware if their animals may have been exposed, either through purchase, showing at a fair, visiting their premises, etc.?

    1. Sheepman says:

      The USDA doesn’t reveal the names of the flocks they destroy except under the most extenuating of circumstances or when they’re trying to make an example of an uncooperative grower.

      Once they’ve destroyed all the genetically scrapie-susceptible or infected sheep on someone’s place, there’s no risk of that person’s flock spreading the disease any more.

      To publish their name would make it impossible for them to continue in the sheep biz–due to a bad reputation with scrapie, even though they’re now they’re “clean” of it.

      But they DO go to everyone that ever bought a sheep from the flock where the scrapie case was detected and destroy THEIR flock.

      If they were to publish the name, then that grower’s buyers could hide their sheep from the officials, so they couldn’t destroy them.

      Once they’ve destroyed your sheep, their typical practice for the past 10 years has been to snatch your computer, and all record books and then go to whomever YOU sold sheep to, and destroy all their scrapie-susceptible animals.

      All this for a disease that doesn’t in any way affect human health (as Mad Cow does). But it makes it look to America’s largely urban public as if the USDA is fighting Mad Cow.

      And after all, they’re only wiping out a few sheep operations, so who cares?


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