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Evidence of the sheep and goat disease scrapie was first recorded in 1732, when Spanish shepherds reported what they called "la trembladera" (the trembling) or "la enfermedad trotoria" (the trotting disease) in their flocks. Other names given the disease include "scratchie," "staggers," "shakers," and the "staggers."[1] Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease of the nervous system. Many of scrapie's various names describe its symptoms, which include animals scraping against objects, staggering, convulsing, collapsing, irregular walking.[2]

Scrapie is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) neurological disease family, which also includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and the different forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans. One theory of how mad cow disease surfaced in British cattle in the 1980s is that it was transmitted from scrapie-infected sheep carcasses fed to cows.[3]

The USDA has established an enrollment program in an attempt to isolate flocks with scrapie from those shown not likely to develop scrapie. US policy toward in manageing scrapie, which has resulted on an embargo against US sheep and sheep semen exports to other parts of the world, was updated in 1997. According to a USDA fact sheet:[4]

Since 1952, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the sheep industry have made numerous attempts to eradicate scrapie through various programs. The purpose of all previous USDA programs was to identify scrapie and eradicate it. That approach changed with the implementation of the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program on October 1, 1992.
This program is a voluntary, cooperative effort among producers, allied industry representatives, accredited veterinarians, State animal health officials, and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The program provides participating producers with the opportunity to protect their sheep from scrapie and to enhance the marketability of their animals through certifying their origin in scrapie-free flocks. In addition, APHIS regulations restrict the interstate movement of sheep from scrapie-infected and source flocks.

SourceWatch Resources

  • Mad cow disease - contains list of links to scrapie/mad cow-related entries