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The likelihood that BSE has been introduced to the sheep and goat population has made the collection of information on the prevalence of the disease urgent, an opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of the European Commission, has said.

In a recent report, the SSC warned that more adequate testing and monitoring practices must be developed, because at present adequate testing to confirm the presence of BSE in sheep and goats is not available.

In particular, scientists believe that the intensive surveillance of sheep flocks must be carried out so that tests that can distinguish scrapie from BSE quickly and a system of individual identification of sheep with spongiform encephalopathies can be found.

By Monica Dobie, correspondent