More than 2,000 sheep must be slaughtered due to an outbreak of scrapie in Skagafjörður, North Iceland. The fatal, degenerative disease was detected last week at Stóru-Akrar farm, which has over 800 sheep. Farmer Gunnar Sigurðsson was despondent when interviewed about the matter.
“You’re just overcome by guilt,” Gunnar told RÚV reporters. “There is also this great sorrow. I don’t think there are many people who find it easy to let go of their life’s work, it’s very hard.” Gunnar says sheep farming connects his family, who work together on the farm.
The disease has since been found at three other farms in the fjord: Syðri-Hofdalir, Grænamýri, and Hof í Hjaltadal. All of the sheep at those farms must also be slaughtered to prevent further spread of the disease.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease, which affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is highly contagious between sheep and the prion (type of protein) that causes it can persist in soil and flocks for decades. There is no treatment or cure for scrapies. It has, however, not been found to be transmissible to humans, neither through direct contact nor consumption of meat, milk, or other products from infected animals.
Scrapie has been detected in Skagafjörður previously, including in 2016. It is thought to be the first location where scrapies arrived in Iceland, via an English ram that was transported to the fjord in 1878.