UP to one thousand animals have been voluntarily euthanised by farmers in Donegal in recent weeks due to an outbreak of a disease called sarcocystosis, the Donegal News has learned.
Last month, vets condemned more than 400 sheep carcasses at a number of meat plants around the country following an outbreak of the disease which originated in east Donegal.
Authorities have confirmed that contaminated lamb meat, which has been infected by the disease, has not got into the food chain.
However, a number of additional measures have been put in place in the weeks since to make sure the possibility of the disease being passed on to humans has been eliminated.
These measures include isolating up to a dozen flocks in Donegal while up to 1,000 animals have also been voluntarily euthanised by farmers in Donegal.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said that as a consequence of actions taken by veterinary inspectors, there was believed to be no danger to human health.
“There are a small number of sheep flocks in the North West of Ireland under investigation by their local Regional Veterinary Office. A final report on the on-farm investigation is not forthcoming at this point.
“The Department’s Veterinary Services have condemned all the affected carcasses. These have been destroyed as Category 1 Animal By-Products. This ensures that they excluded from the food chain,” the spokesman said.
Mr Michael Chance, Donegal Chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association, paid tribute to the Department for the thoroughness of their ongoing investigations.
“The most important issue at all times here is to make sure that all affected carcasses have been excluded from the food chain,” Mr Chance said.
Humans can contract the disease from eating undercooked meat infected with the parasite that causes the disease. It is more prevalent in countries where raw meat is commonly consumed.
The department declined to say if a prosecution would be brought following the recent outbreak.
It also declined to give the number and locations of meat plants where infected carcasses were detected, or indicate if infected lambs had been linked to more than one farm in Donegal.
It has restricted the flock where the outbreak originated, which means sheep from that location cannot be moved or sold. A large number of the carcasses were condemned at a meat processing plant in Mayo.
Lambs contract sarcocystosis from dogs, foxes and other wildlife who in turn get it from eating offal containing the parasite.
The number of sarcocystosis detections on farms in Donegal since last year is cause for extreme concern.
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