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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 (UK-wide).  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

In May 2017 the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recognised the official BSE risk status of Scotland (and Northern Ireland) as Negligible Risk, the lowest risk level.  This follows on from the Scottish Government’s application to the OIE in 2016.

Following OIE ratification the European Commission has now amended Commission Decision 2007/453/EC which establishes the BSE status of Member States (or third countries or regions thereof) according to their BSE risk.  This amendment officially recognises the 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 continue to be recognised as having controlled BSE risk status.