The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is offering a free testing service to help the state's sheep producers determine how susceptible their rams are to a mad cow-like illness called scrapie. The disease has been a long-standing problem for sheep producers in the state.
Scrapie is a degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It has been diagnosed in more than 1,000 flocks in the U.S.
"A simple blood test can determine if a ram carries the genetic susceptibility to the disease, or if it's one that has a genetic resistance against scrapie," says State Veterinarian Gary Kinder. "A resistant ram is good breeding stock because he won't pass along susceptibility to his offspring."
The WVDA reports there is no evidence that scrapie is transmitted to humans either through direct contact or through the consumption of sheep or goat products.
Producers who wish to participate in the testing program should call the WVDA Animal Health Division at 304-558-2214 to schedule genetic testing for their rams.