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Department of Primary Industries:
TSE Surveillance In Australia

Australia implements national strategy to monitor cattle and sheep for evidence of disease

By DNRE - 12th November 2002 - Back to News

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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) are a group of fatal neuro-degenerative diseases of both humans and animals. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and scrapie are members of this group of diseases, and though it is known that these diseases affect only cattle and sheep, they have very serious implications in the world-wide incidence of a human form of TSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.


Australia is presently free from both BSE and scrapie. However, due to international edict requiring trading partners to prove the absence of disease, Australia has implemented a national strategy to monitor the national cattle and sheep populations for both clinical and histological evidence of disease. The National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program (NTSESP) is a jointly funded venture involving industry and government, specifically aimed at achieving on-going demonstration of Australia’s freedom from BSE and scrapie. Implementation of the program will also facilitate the early detection of these diseases should they occur in Australia, thus assisting in the maintenance of Australia’s market access.


NTSESP involves detailed examination of several hundred cattle and sheep nation-wide annually. Each state has a designated quota assigned depending on the size of the state’s herd and flock. Individual animals identified as potentially eligible candidates for inclusion in the program must meet several species dependant guidelines. In Victoria, these eligibility criteria include cattle 2 years of age or more, which do not recover after exhibiting one or more specific neuro-degenerative signs, or cattle of 4 years of age or more displaying a chronic progressive disease or wasting. Similarly, sheep of 2 years of age or more, which do not recover after displaying neuro-degenerative signs, or sheep which are 2 years of age or more and exhibiting chronic progressive disease or wasting, are preferred candidates for further examination.

Producers can assist in maintaining the program by reporting animals exhibiting suspicious behavioural patterns to their local veterinarian, NRE Veterinary or Animal Health officer. Incentive payments are available to producers for suitable candidates, however the animal must be examined initially while alive and a report prepared relating to clinical signs.

Further information of the risk of TSE’s in Australia’s livestock industries, and measures to counteract the risks can be provided by local NRE animal health staff and private veterinary practitioners. Alternatively, information and links to related sites can be found on Animal Health Australia’s web site, located at


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