Paratuberculosis is a chronic bowel disease that can afflict various ruminants, including cattle and sheep. The disease is caused by a bacterium which is difficult to manage. It is important to keep Swedish herds free of the disease, as it is both difficult to treat and has a detrimental impact on animal health.
In Sweden, we have not had any confirmed case of paratuberculosis since 2005, when there was one case. At that time, an imported animal had carried the disease when it was brought into the country. In many other countries, paratuberculosis is a common infection in cattle.
Typical indications of paratuberculosis are wasting and diarrhea. Some infected animals spread the infection without showing any symptoms. There is no treatment for paratuberculosis. Since healthy animals cannot be distinsuguished from infected animals with certainty, there may be considerable consequences if your herd becomes infected with paratuberculosis. It may mean, for example, that you will have to cull all animals that have been in contact with the infected animals. The Swedish Board of Agriculture will carry out an investigation into herds that are suspected to be or have been infected and decide on measures to limit the potential spread of infection.
In case of a suspected infection
If you suspect that animals may be infected, contact your veterinarian immediately.
National rules to prevent the spread of paratuberculosis
The national rules aim to prevent the spread of paratuberculosis among cattle at Swedish holdings and other establishments.
The rules apply to you if you work with cattle in Sweden, regardless of whether you keep animals, transport animals, or operate an abattoir.
The rules specify what you need to do concerning paratuberculosis when bringing cattle into your establishment and apply whether or not the animals are coming from Sweden or from another country.
The requirements which you are to fulfil differ depending on whether or not the establishment, from which the animals are coming, has a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis.
Animals from establishments with documented good status concerning paratuberculosis
If you accept animals from establishments with a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis, you do not need to take any special measures relating to paratuberculosis. Swedish cattle establishments are generally considered to have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis. This is subject to the condition that any cattle which come from other countries have been brought into the establishment in an epidemiologically safe manner, meaning as of 1 September 2021 that they have been introduced in accordance with the national rules.
For an establishment to be considered to have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis, the requirements of the regulation (including the annex) must be met. A summary of these requirements is provided below, but you must also read the regulation (SJVFS 2021:23).
- There shall be a system of monitoring and control. In short, this means that the establishment should be regularly inspected by a competent authority or an independent organisation with veterinary expertise, or by a specific veterinarian who is well acquainted with the establishment.
- All suspected cases of paratuberculosis have been examined by a veterinarian, and there have been no positive cases of paratuberculosis in the past 5 years.
- No cattle have been vaccinated for paratuberculosis in the past year, nor are any cattle the offspring of vaccinated animals.
- Cattle brought into the establishment come from establishments that also have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis.
- At an official inspection, you need to be able to present documentation showing that animals that have been brought into your establishment come from establishments with a documented good status. The system for monitoring and control of paratuberculosis shall be designed in accordance with the rules in the area as defined by a competent authority or by an independent organisation with veterinary expertise. If the system covers an individual establishment, it may also have been designed by a veterinarian who is well acquainted with the establishment. The documentation that you need to present at an inspection should be compiled by those authorities or that organisation in the dispatching country which is responsible for monitoring.
Animals from establishments that do not have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis
If you bring animals to your establishment from establishments that do not have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis, the animals are to be examined in several steps:
- You must first isolate the animals in an isolation facility which is designed in consultation with a veterinarian.
- A veterinarian shall test the animals both using a blood test and a faecal sample while the animal is in isolation in order to determine whether the animal is carrying paratuberculosis.
- The animals may be taken out of isolation and brought into contact with other animals at the establishment only when negative test results for paratuberculosis have been shown, which is to say that no bacteria or antibodies have been detected.
- After the animals have been taken out of isolation and brought into contact with other animals at the establishment, you must ensure that they are annually examined in a paratuberculosis follow-up for the period specified in the regulations. This may need to be done for 1-4 years depending on the age of the animals when they were brought in. During this follow-up testing phase, the establishment does not have documented good status. You must therefore ensure that all animals that are moved from the establishment are tested in accordance with the requirements in the regulations. You must also inform those who receive your animals about the testing status of the establishment and of the animals. The responsibility for further testing then passes to the person who accepts the animals.
- In the event of an official inspection, you must present documentation that the isolation and testing procedures have been carried out in accordance with the regulations.
The national rules are not entry requirements from other countries
Please note that the import of cattle from other countries is regulated by EU rules. The EU does not apply any requirements relating to paratuberculosis when cattle are moved. The Swedish paratuberculosis rules are thus not entry requirements and do not impose any additional requirements on the establishment or on the country from which the animals are coming. This means that according to EU rules, you may bring in animals from establishments in other countries that do not have a documented good status relating to paratuberculosis.
Cattle for slaughter
Cattle from establishments that do not have a documented good status concerning paratuberculosis, and which are intended for slaughter, are to be transported directly to the abattoir, without contact with other animals, for immediate slaughter. Manure must also be handled in an epidemiologically safe manner at the abattoir.
More detailed information about the national rules can be found in the regulations of the Swedish Board of Agriculture (SJVFS 2021:23).
Voluntary control programme and monitoring of infection
In addition, a voluntary control programme for paratuberculosis has been in place for some time. The programme is primarily oriented toward those who have breeding herds with beef cattle. Gård och Djurhälsan (Farm and Animal Health) are responsible for the programme. They are also responsible for monitoring paratuberculosis in sheep and goats, and in other animals.
Revision date: 2023-03-24