by SUSAN MANN
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision to remove anaplasmosis from the federally reportable disease list is something the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has been requesting for the past 15 years, says Rob McNabb, the association’s general manager, operations.
“It’s better late than never,” he says.
CFIA says in a Feb. 25 program adjustments notice to industry that effective April 1, 2014 the disease that’s caused by a parasite of red blood cells in domestic and wild ruminants is being placed on the list of immediately notifiable diseases. The change means after that date only laboratories and not farmers must report suspected or confirmed cases to the agency. In addition, the agency won’t conduct surveillance for anaplasmosis to verify Canada’s status for the disease and it won’t respond to anaplasmosis cases. Until March 31, 2014, CFIA has an interim, scaled-back disease response in preparation for the program ending.
McNabb says Canada’s placement of anaplasmosis on the federally reportable disease list was a significant trade irritant for the United States in the late 1990s “because we were claiming to be free of the disease due to the system we had in place and the U.S. isn’t.” The Americans saw this as a barrier to free trade, particularly for feeder cattle.
McNabb says there’s a very low prevalence of anaplasmosis in Canada. “We were still able to claim freedom (from anaplasmosis) because of the program that we had in place – that it was a reportable disease and when we found it we quarantined herds, tested and took out any positives.”
CFIA’s notice says the decision to move the disease to the immediately notifiable list was based on a scientific assessment. “The decision reflects the fact that anaplasmosis is established in the U.S.” There is a strong probability anaplasmosis will enter Canada from the United States and continuing to attempt to eradicate the disease within Canada may not be feasible.
That’s the argument Canadian Cattlemen’s made 15 years ago, McNabb says. “They have finally tweaked in to that.”
CFIA’s notice says the change enables it to focus more resources on emerging diseases, pandemics and foreign animal diseases. CFIA didn’t respond to questions in time for this posting about how much it costs annually for it to do anaplasmosis surveillance and respond to cases.
The decision won’t affect Canada’s international reporting obligations to trading partners and the World Organization for Animal Health. It also won’t affect market opportunities for Canadian farmers, the notice says.
McNabb says anaplasmosis is a production limiting disease. It is not highly contagious, doesn’t wipe out herds or put otherwise healthy animals on the brink of death. CFIA says it doesn’t pose human health or food safety risks. A human disease, called human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, was renamed human anaplasmosis in 2003 but it’s caused by a different microorganism.
Ticks and biting flies can spread the disease. It can also be spread through contaminated instruments, such as hypodermic syringes and dehorning equipment. CFIA says farmers can protect their animals and industry by implementing farm-level biosecurity and by contacting their veterinarian if they suspect their herd may be infected. McNabb says his organization and the CFIA worked together for the past two years to create a national biosecurity standard. Following training and education, farmers will start implementing biosecurity plans for their operations this year, he adds. BF