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Small Ruminants

Reportable Diseases - full list of reportable diseases for all animal species

Health and Disease Information


Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system of sheep and goats.  The disease is believed to be caused by an abnormal protein, known as a prion, which acts as the infectious and contagious agency.  Scrapie is likely spread from mother to offspring and/or other herd/flock members through contact with afterbirth.  Sheep or goats infected with the disease may exhibit behavioral changes, hyper-excitability, have a high-stepping gait, and intense pruritus.  These signs progress until the animal dies.  There is currently no treatment or cure for scrapie.  

Illinois maintains a "Consistent State" status with the National Scrapie Eradication Program.  As part of the program, anyone who owns, buys or sells sheep or goats in Illinois is required to have a flock identification number (Flock ID).  In addition, all sheep and goats used for breeding, exhibition or over 18 months of age must be officially identified when leaving the farm and prior to being comingled with sheep or goats from other flocks or herds.  Official identification is important in order to increase the speed and efficiency of tracing diseased or exposed animals to the flock or origin where disease control strategies can be implemented.  

The National Scrapie Eradication Program consists of the following components:

  • Identification/detection of infected sheep or goats through nationwide slaughter surveillance
  • Tracing of infected animals to their flock of origin
  • Quarantine and testing of exposed animals sold from an infected source flock or herd
  • Voluntary genetic testing of sheep to determine susceptibility to scrapie

Producers may obtain a flock identification and official scrapie tags by contacting the USDA, APHIS Veterinary Services Illinois District Office at (217)547-6030. 

More Information:


Q Fever

Query or Queensland Fever (Q Fever) is a bacterial infection affecting a variety of animal species as well as human beings.  Q fever is caused by Coxiella burnetii, an organism that can survive in a dried condition for extended periods.  Q fever infection of sheep and goats is nearly worldwide in geographical distribution and is thought to be endemic in most continents. Most animal show no signs of infection. However, disease may occur in the form of abortion outbreaks in goats, and less commonly in sheep.  They can also experience stillborns and weak newborn animals. After the initial abortion, the animal becomes immune to abortion but the infection can remain subclinical (without symptoms).  


The female can then carry the bacteria indefinitely, shedding it sporadically in milk and when birthing.  The bacteria is shed in birthing fluids and membranes, as well as milk, urine and feces.  Animal and humans are typically infected via inhalation of the bacteria in aerosols or through contact with droplets or fomites (gloves, coveralls, rags, etc).  Ingestion is also possible, particularly through the consumption of contaminated, unpasteurized dairy products.    


More Information: 

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)

Washington Department of Agriculture: Best Practices to Control Q Fever

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease of all warm-blooded animals, including humans.  The disease is caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis.  Species susceptibility varies.  Cattle, sheep and goats are considered highly susceptible.  In animals, transmission occurs by ingestion and possibly inhalation of spores.  The disease has a rapid onset after exposure and sudden death may occur without any symptoms.  In some animals, staggering, trembling, difficulty breathing, collapse and terminal convulsions may be seen.  Infected animals bloat rapidly after death and dark bloody discharge may appear from the mouth, nose, anus, and/or vulva.  An important sign of anthrax is the lack of stiffening of the carcass (rigor mortis) after death.  Anthrax may cause serious disease in humans after exposure to anthrax-infected animals and their tissues. 


More Information:

Illinois Department of Public Health

Extension Foundation


Ringworm (Club Lamb Fungus)

Ovine dermatophytosis is also know as lumpy wool, ringworm, or woolrot was first recognize in the 1980s.  If occurs most commonly in sheep exhibited at fairs and other shows.  It is contagious to humans and other animals.  It is caused by the fungus Trichophyton.  The fungus invades the skin and hair follicles during shearing (nicks and cuts), handling, or due to environmental hazards.  Slick shearing, repetitive washing and stress increase the risk of infection.  Spores can survive several years on animals and in environments such as barns, trucks, trailers, tack, grooming tools, wool, feeders, and in bedding, soil and manure.  


During exhibition at fairs and other shows, pre-admission health examination is important.  Animals should be examined by veterinarians or trained staff immediately upon arrival and before penning.  Animals with active lesions should be removed from the premises. 


More Information:
The Ohio State University OSU Sheep Team


Contagious Ecthyma (Orf)

Also known as Orf, Scabby Mouth or Sore Mouth.  Contagious ecthyma is a viral disease found worldwide in countries that raise sheep.  In the US, it is most often seen in the Western States (e.g. Wyoming, Colorado, California, Texas). The virus is found in skin lesions and scabs of infected animals and is thought to enter by direct contact with cuts and abrasions on the skin.  It can also be spread by fomites (objects like shoes, clothing, halters, brushes, etc.).  The virus can survive in the environment and remain on wool and hides for approximately one month after the lesions have healed and has been recovered from scabs after 12 years.  


Signs are seen 2-3 days after exposure to the virus.  Initial signs are small raised bumps, sores and blisters on the lips, nose, ears, and/or eyelids.  Nursing lambs can transit the virus to the dam, resulting in lesions on the teats and udder.  The lesions are painful and cause a decreased appetite, weight loss and even death from starvation.  Humans can become infected with Orf through direct contact with skin lesions or scabs of infected animals.  In humans, only one skin lesion develops.  


More Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Merck Veterinary Manual


Sheep/Goat Entry Requirements

Animal Imports

More Sheep and Goat Resources 

Illinois Farm Bureau

University of Illinois 4-H

Illinois Meat Goat Producers

Illinois Dairy Goat Association

Illinois Lamb and Wool Producers

Illinois Club Lamb Association