Spain reports first cases of sheep disease scrapie

MADRID, Spain - Authorities in a northern province said Tuesday they had destroyed 2,400 sheep after detecting Spain's first cases of scrapie, an ailment similar to mad cow disease.

The animals came from farms in two towns in the Navarra region. They were sacrificed in June after tests on 12 sheep revealed three cases of scrapie, the Navarra agriculture department said.

Officials plan to destroy another 400 sheep in the next few days, Navarra agricultural spokesman Javier Errea said.

The Spanish Agriculture Ministry confirmed that these were the first known cases of scrapie in Spain.

Scrapie is a fatal neurological ailment similar to mad cow disease. Both are believed to be caused by a defective form of brain protein, called a prion.

Symptoms in sheep include trembling, loss of coordination and scraping against objects.

Veterinarians say scrapie was first diagnosed 250 years ago in Britain and other western European countries. It is relatively common among sheep.

There are no known cases of its being transmitted directly to humans. But an outbreak in Britain in the 1980s of mad cow disease - which scientists now say does jump the species barrier - has been blamed on the practice of feeding cattle the ground up remains of scrapie-infected sheep. The European Union has since banned that practice.


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