Alberta Changes BSE Surveillance Program, Canada Finds Thirteenth BSE Case

Over the past four years, cattle producers in Alberta, Canada, have worked closely with the federal and provincial governments to meet international requirements for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance. Now, with the help of a new pilot program developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD), producers will be able to focus their efforts on the animals the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, identifies as being most at risk.

Effective July 1, 2008, the Canada-Alberta BSE Surveillance Program (CABSESP) will shift the surveillance focus to testing younger high-risk cattle for which critical disease history and diagnoses are available.

“CABSESP has done a tremendous job of gathering information on BSE levels in older Alberta cattle,” explained Dr. Gerald Ollis, chief provincial veterinarian. “A move toward more targeted, precise sampling further strengthens Alberta’s vitally important cattle industry and provides a possible model for the rest of the country.” To date CABSESP has tested more than 100,000 high-risk cattle – representing more than 40 percent of the cattle tested in Canada.

The new pilot program is in keeping with OIE surveillance standards, which use a point system to assess the value of member country’s BSE surveillance. Because most cases of BSE show up in cattle between four and seven years of age, the OIE point system assigns a higher value for high-risk cattle in that age range.

“Knowing that, we determined that cattle over 107 months will no longer qualify for BSE testing unless they have neurological signs indicating they may have BSE,” said Ollis.

Other program changes include:

• Only licensed veterinarians certified by ARD can participate in CABSESP.

• Veterinarians must verify the age of the animal sampled. Dentition can be used for animals up to five years of age and farm records are required for animals between 60 and 107 months of age.

• Veterinarians must provide a comprehensive description of the herd and operation, not just the animal.

• In the case of a dead animal, veteri-narians will be required to conduct a post-mortem and record the cause of death.

• Producers must be in possession of the animal for at least 30 days in order to provide an adequate clinical history.

The new age limits will reduce the number of animals eligible for testing.

Canada Finds Thirteenth BSE Case

On June 23, 2008, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a five-year-old Holstein cow from British Columbia. This is the country’s thirteenth native case since May 2003. Canada’s stringent BSE safeguards prevented any part of the animal’s carcass from entering the human food chain or any potentially infective parts from entering the feed chain.

The animal was detected through Canada’s national BSE surveillance program and its age is consistent with previous cases, which range from four to 16 years. CFIA has launched an investigation to determine the animal’s background, including tracing the cow’s herd mates at birth.

August 2008 RENDER | back