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Sheep scab is one of the most contagious diseases of sheep.

First published:
20 November 2018
Last updated:

Sheep scab is a reportable disease but poses no risk to human health. Mites living on the surface of the skin leave droppings. These cause an allergic reaction in the infested sheep, making them scratch intensely. The itch causes distress and can stop animals grazing.

Suspicion and confirmation

If you suspect sheep scab, you should inform your private vet at the earliest opportunity.                                    

You must  treat and control sheep scab in your flock(s). Your Local Authority could take legal action, under The Sheep Scab Order 1997, if you do not.

Clinical signs

Sheep scab can be difficult to identify. Look for symptoms such as:

  • wool loss
  • intense itching
  • skin lesions

Transmission, prevention and treatment

Sheep scab is spread:

  • through direct contact with infected sheep
  • from areas and objects where infected sheep have recently been present

The mite that causes the scab can survive away from the host for up to 17 days.

To prevent the spread of sheep scab, you should follow biosecurity measures including:

  • quarantining new stock
  • isolating any affected stock
  • double-fencing
  • blood-testing to diagnose scab before the appearance of clinical symptoms

As sheep scab can be difficult to identify, you should discuss the following with your vet:

  • any concerns
  • treatment plans
  • preventative measures to protect your flock