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Diseases - Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Background on BSE

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986 and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988.  Over the following 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 characteristically 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 consistent 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. 

BSE Negligible Risk Status for Scotland

Scotland (and Northern Ireland)  have both achieved the safest status for BSE and has now been officially recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) at its meeting in Paris on 25 May 2017[1].  This follows on from the Scottish Government’s application to the OIE in 2016.  Northern Ireland has also achieved BSE Negligible Risk status.

With confirmation that there is formal OIE ratification, the European Commission will propose an amendment to Commission Decision 2007/453/EC (establishing the BSE status of Member States or third countries or regions thereof according to their BSE risk) which will be subject to a vote by all EU Member States.  The amendment will recognise the new BSE negligible risk status of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as zones of the UK, for the purposes of trade within the EU and BSE controls.  England and Wales will continue to be recognised as having controlled BSE risk status.