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Diseases - Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Application for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Negligible Risk

The Scottish Government submitted an application to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in 2016 for BSE Negligible Risk status.  The OIE’s Scientific Commission has now recommended that Scotland be recognised as an area of the UK having Negligible Risk status, and its recommendation will now be considered by the OIE General Assembly of Delegates at its meeting in late May 2017.  A country can apply for Negligible Risk status if it has had no cases in animals in the preceding 11 years and must demonstrate high levels of disease control.

Scotland currently has Controlled Risk status, as does the rest of the UK. 

The move to NR status will help enhance Scotland’s global reputation for high health status and may facilitate access to new markets across the world for Scottish premium exports.

Background on BSE

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a comparatively new disease of cattle. It was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986 and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988. Over the next few years the epidemic grew considerably and peaked in the UK in 1992 at over 37,000 cases. There have been over 183,000 cases to date.

BSE occurs in adult animals in both sexes, typically in four and five year olds. It is a neurological disease involving pronounce changes in mental state, abnormalities of posture and movement and of sensation. The clinical disease usually lasts for several weeks and it is characterisically progressive and fatal.

Current Situation in Scotland

Scotland has been BSE free since 2009. In the years before that, there were relatively low numbers of BSE cases compared to the peak of the epidemic in the early 1990s. The marked decrease in the number of cases detected through passive surveillance is consitent with the long tail previously predicted by epidemiologists. An active BSE surveillance programme started in July 2001 and absolute numbers rose at this point, but since decreased.