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South America News

Thursday, December 14th 2000 - 20:00 UTC
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Sheep disease in Magallanes

Magallanes farmers are concerned about the appearance of several cases of a rare disease that attacks mainly adult sheep, known as Maedi Visna, generating a persistent and progressive terminal infection. According to Chilean sanitary officials in Punta Arenas and the Magallanes Farmers Association, Maedi Visna represents no risk for humans, but debilitates 2 to 4 years old ewes limiting their reproductive conditions and endangering lambs because the disease generally comes with mastitis. Carlos Rowland from the Magallanes Regional Veterinary Services said that some of the sheep detected are of European origin, the Spanish breed "latxa", while others belong to a new crossbred Milchschaf, that was introduced from Argentina. Some local Corriedale crossed with these high production breeds also have the symptoms of the disease. Mr. Rowland and Mr. Pablo Sapunar, president of the Magallanes have appeared in the local media requesting farmers to immediately contact sanitary authorities if they suspect or believe there are infected animals in their flocks. Meantime sanitary officials are visiting all farmers with latxa and milchschaf breeds to take blood samples and elaborate an epidemiological chart of Magallanes and Tierra del Fuego. According to the extent of the disease, and the number of farms infected, authorities could go as far as ordering the eradication of all sheep, and goats, with a positive Maedi Visna serological reaction.

"No blind sheep"

"Rumours about blind sheep as a result of UV radiation and the world headlines indicating that Punta Arenas was fully exposed to the ozone hole for the first time last October, are all nonsense". Professor Claudio Casiccia head of the Magallanes University, Umag, atmospheric laboratory who has been researching the ozone hole for the last ten years indicated to the local press that "there's no scientific evidence to back the blind sheep story that began in 1992, and Punta Arenas was effectively fully under the ozone hole for the first time in 1992, and not this year as was published all round the world". Professor Casiccia said that Umag has been working with Brazilian assistance since 1990 when

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