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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are an important public health concern. Since the emergence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) during the 1980s and its link with human Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, active surveillance has been a key element of the European Union’s TSE control strategy. Success of this strategy means that now, very few cases are detected compared with the number of animals tested. Refining surveillance strategies would enable resources to be redirected towards other public health priorities. Cost-effectiveness analysis was performed on several alternative strategies involving reducing the number of animals tested for BSE and scrapie in Great Britain and, for scrapie, varying the ratio of sheep sampled in the abattoir to fallen stock (which died on the farm). The most cost-effective strategy modelled for BSE involved reducing the proportion of fallen stock tested from 100% to 75%, producing a cost saving of ca GBP 700,000 per annum. If 50% of fallen stock were tested, a saving of ca GBP 1.4 million per annum could be achieved. However, these reductions are predicted to increase the period before surveillance can detect an outbreak. For scrapie, reducing the proportion of abattoir samples was the most cost-effective strategy modelled, with limited impact on surveillance effectiveness.


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