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Scrapie is a disease of sheep and goats that destroys their brains. The disease came from Great Britain in 1947. It kills the brain cells of sheep so that they can not get up to eat and drink. Animals that have scrapie will rub against things and scrape off their wool or hair. This scraping by the animals is what led to the naming of the disease. Currently there is no cure for scrapie, sheep that get the disease always die.

Sheep get the disease from other sheep or where lambing has occurred. Scientists believe that sheep primarily get scrapie during lambing. Humans cannot get scrapie.

It takes a long time for scrapie to make sheep sick, typically 2 to 5 years. When they first get scrapie it is often difficult to tell if they have the disease. They do not show many signs at first. You have to watch them closely and wait to see if they get worse. Some symptoms of scrapie include: Stepping high with their front feet, hopping like a rabbit, shaking, swaying, stumbling, smacking their lips, and frequent itching.

In the past, you used to have to wait for the sheep to die and then test their brains to determine if they had scrapie. Today, scientists are working on a new test so that you do not have wait that long. It is possible for veterinarians take a small part of  the third eyelid and test it for scrapie. This test can help sheep owners identify and stop the spread of the disease earlier.

To prevent scrapie, a flock owner needs to remove sick sheep from the flock and keep the lambing area clean. After each lambing the flock owner should pick up afterbirth, change the bedding,clean the area and use bleach on the fences and ground. Very strong bleach or lye can kill scrapie. Ask the people who sell sheep if they are in the Scrapie Certification Program or if they have ever had scrapie. A good plan would be to buy sheep only from scrapie certified flocks.

For more information contact your 4-H leader, County Extension Agent, or Veterinarian.




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