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Mad Cow Disease Confirmed, But Harmless to Humans

Image of a cow with BSE. A feature of such dis...

Cow with BSE. A feature of such disease is the inability of the infected animal to stand.

According to The Huffington Post the USDA has confirmed a case of Mad Cow Disease was found in a California dairy cow. It is the fourth case of Mad Cow (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)) found in U.S. cattle since the first in December 2003.

USDA Chief Veterinary Officer, John Clifford, said Tuesday that the cow did not enter the human food chain and that all U.S. meat and dairy supplies are safe. Further mitigating the risk to the public, milk does not transmit BSE. According to the USDA, the animal’s carcass is being held under state authority at a California rendering facility and will be destroyed. “It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health,” Clifford said.

Dr. William Schaffner, Chair of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University, told ABC News that it was unlikely any more cows would contract BSE. “Mad cow occurs in animals as it does in humans — rarely and sporadically. At this point, I would not expect there to be another cow to be found,” he said. The animal tested positive for a case of “atypical” BSE (a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed).

A hamburger with a rim of lettuce sitting on a...

A hamburger

The Associated Press reports:

“There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal,” Clifford told reporters at a hastily convened press conference.

Clifford did not say when the disease was discovered or exactly where the cow was raised. He said the cow was at a rendering plant in Central California when the case was discovered through regular USDA sample testing.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. The World Health Organization has said that tests show that humans cannot be infected by drinking milk from BSE-infected animals.

The disease is always fatal in cattle, however. There have been three confirmed cases of BSE in the United states, in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington state, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama.

In people, eating meat contaminated with BSE is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease. A massive outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom that peaked in 1993 was blamed for the deaths of 180,000 cattle and more than 150 people.

There have been a handful of cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease confirmed in people living in the United States, but those were linked to meat products in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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