EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE STATEMENT THAT

ARGENTINA IS A SCRAPIE-FREE COUNTRY AS DEFINED BY THE OFFICE INTERNATIONAL DES EPIZOOTIES (OIE).

 

 

OIE Conditions for a Scrapie-Free country

 

The conditions to be satisfied in order to be classed as a scrapie-free country are defined in the OIE International Animal Health Code Draft Chapter 3.3.8 on scrapie as existing at 1 June 1999. The specific components of the definition are defined in Articles 3.3.8.1 1) 5) inclusive and 3.3.8.2, 1), 3) and 4). Argentina satisfies all these conditions. A number of additional assurances beyond those required by the OIE can also be given.

 

How Argentina satisfies the conditions of the Code Draft Chapter on Scrapie

 

In regard to Article 3.3.8.1:

 

Argentina has a policy for the continuous surveillance and monitoring for the existence of scrapie in all sheep and goat flocks in the country. Post mortem examination of the brains of suspect animals is conducted to determine whether or not scrapie exists.

 

The minimum requirements for effective surveillance are satisfied:

  1. There is a high standard of official veterinary surveillance, reporting and regulatory control.

  1. The Veterinary Administration (SENASA) has a current knowledge of, and authority over, all establishments which contain sheep and goats in the whole country.
  2. Scrapie has been continuously, compulsorily notifiable in Argentina since 1900. Sheep and goats suspected to have scrapie are clinically investigated and compulsorily slaughtered.
  3. Brain material from clinically suspect animals which are slaughtered, or which die, are subjected to laboratory examination in accordance with the diagnostic techniques set out in the OIE Manual.
  4. Records including the number and results of all investigations are maintained for at least 7 years.

In Regard to Article 3.3.8.2:

Conditions for a scrapie free country or zone (Two alternatives 1) and 2) are offered)

    1) Suspicion of scrapie has been compulsorily notifiable in Argentina for at least 6 years (and in practice, since 1900). There has been no confirmed case, and an effective and continuous surveillance system as referred to in Article 3.3.8.1 is practised, including the examination, in an approved laboratory, of brain material from sheep and goats older than 18 months displaying signs of progressive neurological disease in accordance with the diagnostic techniques set out in the Manual.

A sufficient number of investigations is carried out annually, to provide a  95% level of confidence of detecting scrapie if it is present at a prevalence rate exceeding 0.1% out of the total number of all chronic wasting conditions in the population of sheep and goats in Argentina older than 18 months of age. (It is assumed that the occurrence rate of chronic wasting conditions within the population of sheep and goats older than 18 months of age is at least 1%.

2) At the present time ARGENTINA is not wishing to utilise the option that all flocks have been accredited free of scrapie using the scheme described in the Code, but may do so in the future.

3) The feeding to sheep and goats of meat-and-bone meal derived from ruminants originating from countries not free from animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) has been banned since 1990 (Resolution 429/90). This Resolution prohibits the importation of ruminants and ruminant products from the United Kingdom and other BSE or scrapie-affected countries. Protection is further strengthened by Resolution 252/95 and Resolution 611/96. These Resolutions prohibit the feeding to ruminants of concentrates that contain ruminant-derived by-products. These bans are effectively enforced in the whole country.

4) Introduction of sheep and goats, semen and embryos/ova from countries or zones not free from scrapie are carried out in accordance with Article 3.3.8.4., Article 3.3.8.5., Article 3.3.8.6. or Article 3.3.8.7., of the OIE Code Draft chapter on scrapie as relevant.

 

 

CONCLUSION I

 

ARGENTINA IS A SCRAPIE-FREE COUNTRY AS DEFINED BY THE OFFICE INTERNATIONAL DES EPIZOOTIES (OIE).

ADDITIONAL ASSURANCES I

 

Additional assurances beyond those required by the OIE for supporting the case that Argentina is a Scrapie-Free Country

 

To support the contention that Argentina is a scrapie-free country, the following statements can be made and in regard to ARTICLE 3.3.8.1 of the Code:

 

Argentina keeps up to date with current knowledge and diagnostic methods on TSE

 

Argentina fully understands the complexities of scrapie in sheep and goats and any risks there may be for these species from the BSE agent or any other TSE agent (CHAPTER 2). Argentina continuously updates its knowledge of the disease, results of recent research and diagnostic methodology. Apart from using their own staff for this purpose, veterinarians, medical doctors, and TSE scientists of international reputation are used to ensure that Argentina is fully equipped for the purpose.

 

Argentina has high standards of official veterinary surveillance, reporting and control

 

Argentina has a highly efficient State Animal Health Veterinary Service (SENASA) comprised of field and laboratory veterinarians and support staff who have considerable experience of animal disease control and surveillance. Annual or bi-annual inspection of animals by SENASA staff for the identification of sheep scab and for FMD surveillance (and blood testing) provides the basis of good clinical surveillance of all farm animals in Argentina. It is during these examinations that clinical inspection of all sheep and goats (as well as cattle) in Argentina is conducted for evidence of TSE (CHAPTER 3). The extensive awareness programme (CHAPTER 4) ensures that all livestock farmers, veterinarians and SENASA staff employed on these inspections are fully aware of the clinical signs of scrapie and BSE. Such examinations are supplemented with clinical examinations of animals at markets, abattoirs and other gatherings (CHAPTER 4) and of sheep and goats over 18 months of age reported to SENASA with progressive neurological signs. SENASA has a sound knowledge of all the industries relevant to the control of TSE. SENASA also has administrative control of all livestock farms and premises, and, in so far as hygiene, safety and animal disease control are concerned, of the associated industries, including artificial insemination centres, embryo transfer facilities, premises where medicinal products used in animals are manufactured, abattoirs, rendering plants and feed premises. Laboratories that conduct official investigations and tests for animal TSE including scrapie are approved by SENASA and are under the direct control of SENASA.

 

To support the contention that Argentina is a scrapie-free country, the following statements can be made in regard to ARTICLE 3.3.8.2, 1), 3) and 4) of the Code:

 

Notification

 

All exotic diseases, including scrapie, BSE and all animal TSE, and certain endogenous diseases have been notifiable in Argentina since 1900 under Law #3959 (Animal Health Law Enforcement Authority). Specific resolutions now specifically deal with scrapie (Resolution #695/96) and BSE (Resolution #172/97). Thus there has been a policy for the compulsory notification to the Competent Authority of scrapie, BSE and indeed all animal TSE continuously since 1900. Failure to report the clinical suspicion of disease is a punishable offence under the Animal Health Act from 1900 (APPENDIX B). If a financial loss is incurred by a farmer as a result of Government intervention, e.g. compulsory slaughter of a sheep, there is provision for compensation. No charge is made to the owner for any laboratory examination. A balance is kept between punishment for non-compliance and compensation for loss, and is under continuous review. There is thus a strong motivation for sheep and goat farmers and zoo owners to ensure notification of suspect cases of scrapie, partly due to their historical and ethical approach to FMD notification upon which their livelihood depends.

 

Absence of clinical cases

 

There has been no recorded or reported clinical (or pathological) case of scrapie in sheep, goats or moufflon in Argentina since the XVIth century or before.

 

During this period, as more and more knowledge was gained about the disease the quality of surveillance has improved. This has been mainly at the clinical level (the essential aspect of surveillance for disease) and is due to the requirements for frequent inspections of all ruminant and porcine species by personnel trained to recognise FMD, scrapie and BSE. The additional visits made as part of the sheep scab control programme, assist in this process. Since the advent of BSE, surveillance has included more examination of sheep and goat brains than hitherto and the number will be increased in the future (see below).

 

Continuous surveillance and monitoring

 

An effective and continuous surveillance and monitoring system for animal TSE is practised in Argentina.

All farmed ruminant species (including CERVIDAE (deer) and CAMELIDAE (llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos) are regularly and frequently inspected (once or twice a year) for evidence of FMD by trained personnel who are familiar with the clinical signs of scrapie. It is therefore unlikely that scrapie, would be missed if it occurred. Even a sporadic event (e.g. sporadic or familial scrapie, if these hypothetical forms exist as they do in man as naturally-occurring forms of CJD) would also be unlikely to be missed especially if there was transmission of that disease to other animals. Continuous clinical monitoring is the vital method to detect scrapie if it occurs. Furthermore any sheep or goats older than 18 months of age displaying signs of progressive neurological disease are compulsorily destroyed and their brains are examined for the presence of TSE in SENASA-approved laboratories and using methods specified in the Manual. This is supplemented in Argentina by an increasing surveillance for scrapie by pathological methods mainly in sheep, but also in goats. Targeted populations provide brains (in the period from April 1997 onwards) and other tissues (under development) upon which diagnostic tests can be applied, e.g. histopathology of the brain, immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry of brain tissue. No test has yet given a positive result for TSE. (TABLES 1 and 2).

 

Ruminant meat and bone meal (MBM) feed ban

 

The feeding of meat-and-bone meal (MBM) derived from ruminants from BSE and/or scrapie affected countries to sheep and goats has been banned in Argentina since 1990. RESOLUTIONS, 429/90, 382/95 and 203/96 prohibit the importation of such material or source material from which it could be derived and Resolutions 252/95 and 611/96 prohibit the feeding of ruminant protein to ruminant animals, (APPENDIX B). All these measures are effectively enforced.

Effective enforcement is the responsibility of port officers of SENASA and the Customs and Excise staff employed to detect illegal imports. In addition the feeding of ruminant protein to ruminant animals, even from indigenous safe sources of MBM is prohibited and gives a substantial increased confidence that any risk is at a very low level indeed. Enforcement of the law is verified by random sampling of ruminant feed in feed mills and on farm and by subjecting samples to either the microscopic test or ELISA for ruminant protein. No breaches of the regulations have been found following checks of over 102 samples in the period April 1997-April 1999.

 

Importation of sheep, goats, semen and embryos/ova

 

Importation of sheep, goats, semen and embryos/ova is effectively enforced and is the responsibility of port officers of SENASA and the Customs and Excise staff employed to detect illegal imports. Legal imports from all countries including those from countries or zones not free from scrapie are carried out in accordance with Articles 3.3.8.4, Article 3.3.8.5. Article 3.3.8.6 and Article 3.3.8.7 as relevant.

 

Absence of BSE in cattle in Argentina and absence of any animal TSE in Argentina

 

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a disease possibly initiated in other countries from sheep scrapie. BSE does not exist in Argentina. Evidence for the absence of BSE in cattle in Argentina is provided in the sister document "Risk Factors from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in cattle in Argentina" -in preparation- (SAGPyA-IICA-SENASA 1999) and in a dossier presented to the European Commission (EU document 1998, SAPGyA-SENASA). The results of the continuous surveillance for BSE and other animal TSE in Argentina show that no cases of animal TSE of any kind have been detected in the period following publication of these documents. Argentina satisfies the conditions for a BSE-free country as defined by the OIE in the International Animal Health Code chapter on BSE (OIE, 1999).

 

CONCLUSION II

 

THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR THE OCCURRENCE OF BSE OR ANY OTHER ANIMAL TSE IN ANY FARM ANIMAL SPECIES IN ARGENTINA.

ADDITIONAL ASSURANCES II

 

Additional assurances that scrapie does not exist in Argentina can be given as a result of the origin and import policy in regard to sheep and the breeds of sheep that form the bulk of the national flock, namely:

 

The origin of sheep and the period (XIXth century) during which major imports (mainly from Europe especially Great Britain) were being made to establish the Argentine national flock is similar to that of imports into Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. All these countries remained scrapie-free in the same period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION III

 

THE NATIONAL SHEEP FLOCK IN ARGENTINA HAS A LOW RISK OF HARBOURING SCRAPIE.

ADDITIONAL ASSURANCES III

 

Additional assurances that scrapie does not exist in Argentina are provided on account of the livestock farming system and methods of feeding livestock in Argentina as follows:

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION IV

 

THE EXTENSIVE GRAZING OF SHEEP AND GOATS, VIRTUAL ABSENCE OF CONCENTRATE FEEDING, LACK OF ANY MEANS OF RECYCLING TSE INFECTION AND NO USE OF BRAIN-DERIVED VACCINES CREATES AN ENVIRONMENT OF NEGLIGIBLE RISK FOR PROPAGATING SCRAPIE INFECTIVITY IN SHEEP AND GOATS IN ARGENTINA.

 

 

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

 

ARGENTINA IS A SCRAPIE-FREE COUNTRY AS DEFINED BY THE OIE.

 

ARGENTINA INTENDS TO STAY SCRAPIE-FREE BY ADOPTING SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES TO REDUCE THE RISK OF SCRAPIE OCCURRENCE AND BY CONTINUOUSLY CONDUCTING SURVEILLANCE AND MONITORING FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE DISEASE.

 

ARGENTINA HAS A POLICY OF CONTINUOUSLY DEVELOPING ITS MONITORING AND SURVEILLANCE FOR SCRAPIE TO PROVIDE THE BEST GUARANTEES FOR ITS CUSTOMERS AT HOME AND ABROAD

 

ARGENTINA CAN BE REGARDED, FOR PRACTICAL PURPOSES, AS A SCRAPIE-FREE COUNTRY.

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