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Sick sheep: a health threat

September 23, 2012


THIS is apropos of a news report, ‘Australian envoy says sheep fit for human consumption’ (Sept 19). The envoy stated imported sheep were safe for human consumption and even animals suffering from salmonella and actinomyces and E. coli did not pose any threat.

This is wrong and misleading information. Infected animals may harm human’s and animals’ health if they are carrying contagious bacterial and viral infection like pox virus and salmonella bacteria.

It would be better to keep these sheep at an isolated place until they get full recovery from these diseases.

Careful handling is needed to transport and feed these animals. Any recklessness while handling these animals may pose serious epidemic threat.

The signs and symptoms of a soremouth infection are scabs, blisters on the lips, nose, udder, occasionally at the junction of the hoof and skin of the lower leg.

Soremouth can be transmitted by direct contact with affected animals, equipment, fences, feed, and bedding that have been exposed to the virus.

The diseased animals can recover themselves without receiving any treatment because this is a viral disease but can be treated topically with iodine/glycerin solutions.

When humans come into contract by soremouth disease, it is termed orf which may cause painful and contagious lesions on the skin, mostly on the hands or fingers of humans.

If sheep get full recovery from scabby mouth disease, then they would have a lifelong immunity against this disease.

However, they would be susceptible to get infection yet again, but the infection would be a milder state and of shorter duration.

The sheep which are infected by salmonella carry this bacterium mostly from field. This bacterium may cause serious food poisoning in humans if they consume infected parts of the sheep. Bacterial disease can be treated by antibiotics successfully.

The laboratory tests of these animals must be conducted with larger number of samples and accuracy of results should be ensured.

The World Organisation for Animal Health is not a final authority to certify animal’s health. Developed countries do not permit to unload such animals at their ports.

If sheep do not get recovery from these diseases and their health conditions are deteriorating further, then it would be better to euthanise them as soon as possible because their meat will not be fit for human consumption and it can spread the infection to humans and animals. Euthanising seriously sick animals will not raise the animal welfare issue.

Investigation must be carried out who, how and why imported these infected animals which is a serious crime.