Isolate all aborting ewes to minimise spread of disease
The lambing season is well under way around the country and we're seeing all the associated difficulties at the clinics each day. It can be anything from ringwombs to tetanies and difficult lambings, with the odd abortion thrown in from time to time.
Aborting ewes frighten us whenever we see them. One abortion may be just that, a once off. Or it may be the first of an abortion storm. A query that comes up time and again is how do we protect ourselves from picking up whatever disease it is that may spark the problem.
There are several infections in sheep that cause abortions and that can also spread to humans. Such diseases are called zoonoses and can cause similar disease in humans as they do in sheep. Salmonella, toxoplasmosis and chlamydia abortions in sheep spring to mind when we think of zoonotic diseases at lambing time.
Women, in particular, are advised to wear gloves at lambing time and keep strict washing and disinfectant protocols in place when handling sheep at this time.
Pregnant women are well advised to keep clear of the lambing shed at this time of year and the shepherd should be careful with clothing and footwear when going from the shed to the kitchen and back again.
An aborting ewe can spring up in the middle of any pen of lambing ewes, and by the time we realise that this ewe is aborting, we will already have come into close contact with it.
Toxoplasmosis was found in almost 20pc of submissions of aborted foetii at the Regional Veterinary Laboratories (RVL's) last year. Chlamydophila abortus was found in about half that amount and bacterial agents were found in the remainder. Sometimes such infections are active in the flock, even though the lamb is born alive and up to term. However, the lamb will be weak and show poor thrift or even die early post partum if the ewe is infected at the time.