This review provides an update on the epidemiology of scrapie. The authors provide historical and recent information regarding the determination of geographical distribution, pathogenesis, transmission, genetic influence and the dynamics of scrapie within a flock. Also described are the risk factors associated with the disease and its spread within and between flocks. The current science may assist in providing a foundation on which prevention and control programmes may be based. Some examples of current national scrapie programmes are summarised.