‘Frequency of Enzootic Abortion in Ewes on the increase’

The frequency of Enzootic Abortion of Ewes (EAE) has increased by close to 3% year-on-year in 2017, figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine show.

The relative frequency of diagnosis of EAE increased from 16.2% last year to 19.1% this year, in aborted ovine foetal material examined in Department veterinary laboratories.

EAE overtook Toxoplasmosis as the most common cause of abortion in sheep so far in 2017, figures show.

A gradual increase has been the pattern over the last few years and it is suggestive of gradually increasing prevalence of EAE, according to the Department.

The disease is also on the list of notifiable diseases to the Department, as it can be transmitted from animals to humans.

If transmitted to humans, EAE can cause abortion in women and flu-like symptoms in both children and adults.

Department data reflects the voluntary submission of specimens from farms, which is ultimately related to the decision making of farmers and their private veterinary practitioners.

However, the Department warned that its data does not represent systematic sampling to a planned statistical design.

The increase in frequency of the disease detected at veterinary labs could also be affected by other factors, including awareness of the disease and awareness of abortion as both an economic and zoonotic risk for sheep flock owners, the Department said.

Abortion in food-producing animals is a “prioritised part of the Department’s routine work, because many exotic diseases present as abortions, including Brucellosis”.

It is also prioritised as abortion agents represent “a significant source of economic losses and potential human infectious agents”.

Meanwhile, Teagasc has confirmed that the sheep flock in Ballyhaise Agriculture College in Co. Cavan has been affected by EAE this year.

Access to the flock, which is comprised of close to 200 ewes, has been restricted. The college is also liaising with the District Veterinary Office on the matter.

The college has taken veterinary advice and a number of biosecurity measures have been put in place, Teagasc confirmed.