This special issue of the Scientific and Technical Review of the Office International des Epizooties deals with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in animals for a second time. The previous issue on the subject was in June 1992 when the BSE epidemic had reached its peak but before the tragedy of vCJD in people had emerged and the significant spread of the disease to other countries was apparent.
Eleven years later, it is clear that BSE had the characteristics of a time-delay bomb and required delicate management. BSE caused damage as a disease of cattle and as a zoonosis, most probably of food-borne origin. More than this, BSE produced alarm, dread and near panic everywhere. Confidence in the food supply was threatened and a menacing shadow fell over open trade in ruminant animals and animal products.
Delicate management of the wider consequences of BSE required risk analysis and this process, together with the OIE International Animal Health Code standards that were developed for this purpose, has come into its own as a tool for handling all aspects of animal disease both within and among countries. Risk analysis is at the core of the present volume and its chapters are arranged around the three components of risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. The case of Canada, in particular, provides an example of risk assessment for BSE and is followed by chapters on risk management for BSE in Europe, North America, South America and Asia. A chapter on risk communication completes the picture.
Furthermore, the volume contains a general update on prion disease and reviews of current knowledge about BSE, scrapie and chronic wasting disease. Other chapters deal with special issues such as whether BSE has entered populations of sheep, the potential for TSEs in monogastric livestock and fish, diagnostic tests for animal tissue in animal feedstuffs, rendering methods to inactivate prions, the differential diagnosis of BSE in cattle in Western Europe and snapshots of ruminant nutrition systems in Europe and the tropics.
It would be fascinating to jump ten years ahead and look at the status of TSEs in animals in the year 2013. Whether or not these diseases will have either been eliminated or controlled, this issue of the OIE Scientific and Technical Review will remain a unique point of reference. The account of risk analysis of the TSEs can guide management measures for these diseases. In addition, it provides an accessible and concise compendium of knowledge for the years to come.