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Research comment
Of sheep, sentinels and surveillance: what is the new ‘normal’?
  1. Sue C. Tongue
  1. Epidemiology Research Unit, Scotland’s Rural College, Inverness, UK
  1. email: sue.tongue{at}

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What you need to know

  • Sentinel surveillance involves the repeated collection of information from the same selected sites or groups of animals to identify changes in the health status of a specified population over time.

  • In 2016, the median all-cause mortality in 33 Irish lowland flocks was 13.8 per cent, based on carcase submissions and the number of adult female sheep in January.

  • The measures of cause-specific mortality in these flocks, as determined by a standardised postmortem examination approach, provide a baseline for comparison with other data collection approaches and form a foundation for monitoring trends over time.

In the UK and Ireland, networks of veterinary investigation centres – also known as regional veterinary laboratories and disease surveillance centres – serve their local livestock communities by providing diagnostic expertise, experience and specialist knowledge, be that on a local and/or species basis.

As approaches to the design and conduct of animal health surveillance systems have increasingly incorporated epidemiological principles,1 the value of passively obtaining data through these laboratory networks (often termed ‘scanning surveillance’) has been questioned, as has their ability to answer the surveillance questions posed.

While there is no disputing that, …

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