The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed a case of Mad Cow disease in a dairy cow in Fresno, California. The dead animal tested positive for the disease and experts are now completing an investigation to ensure no other cows have been infected. Thus far, no sign of the disease has been detected in the cow feed, which is a positive sign.
Mad Cow, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE – is a fatal disintegration of the brain and nervous system. Although it’s most commonly found in cows, it can also infect humans if they ingest the meat of a cow with the disease.
One such instance occurred in the U.K. close to 30 years ago, when nearly 200 hundred people were infected with the disease after an outbreak. One extreme case left one man blind, deaf and immobile from 2001 until his death in 2011.
More than 4.4 million cows were slaughtered in the 1980s to control this outbreak after close to 180,000 cows were found to have the disease.
This instance is the fourth confirmed case in the U.S. There was no Mad Cow detected in the U.S. until 2003. And the infected animal in this case did not not enter the public food supply at all, and was never intended to.
Mad Cow disease is typically acquired by eating the tissue of an infected animal, and is usually transmitted by a rare infection agent called a prion, though in some cases it can appear spontaneously.
The government has stressed that there is no threat to human health concerning this case, and that people should not be alarmed about the issue. Furthermore, health officials say that milk does not transmit the disease, so the infected dairy cow does not pose a hazard.
To ensure all of the proper safety precautions are being carried out, investigators are currently trying to determine if this is an isolated mutant cow, or if it’s a cluster. Thus far, there is no evidence of the disease beyond the single infected cow, but further investigations are being done.
South Korea is reportedly refusing to import U.S. beef for the time being to ensure the safety of their food supply. But the USDA is reportedly sharing its lab results with international animal health officials in both Canada and England to ensure the case is handled properly and is well contained, and that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.