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USDA confirms the sixth case of mad cow disease in the last 15 years



The sixth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, has been diagnosed in the US over the past 15 years in a 6-year-old mixed cow in Florida. The positive test for the so-called mad cow disease comes six years after the youngest in 2012 in Hanford, CA.

US Department of Agriculture officials reassured the public's concerns about the discovery with the assurance that the animal has never been included in human food supply and has not threatened human health in any other way. The atypical BSE case is unlikely to cause US manufacturers to lose international livestock markets.

The US has only experienced one case of classic BSE. That was in 2003. It's classic BSE, as occurred a generation ago in the UK, when Mad Cow Disease was associated with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or cCJD, the prion disease in humans. The Florida cow was found to be unfit for slaughter during routine surveillance and then submitted to the Colorado State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Fort Collins, CO for more specific BSE testing. Both the Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Florida Veterinarians continue to collect background information on this case.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OEI) generally notes that an atypical BSE case does not change a country's BSE risk status. The reason is that atypical BSE occurs spontaneously in domestic bovine herds around the world. "Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the United States and should not result in any trading problems," states a USDA statement.

The only classic BSE case in the US is a cow imported from Canada in 2003. This has lost some foreign livestock markets for several years. Meat and bone feed with protein from infected cattle ̵

1; which is now banned – has probably helped accelerate classic BSE.

This is the country's sixth BSE detection since the classic 2003 case. The five consecutive BSE cases in the US were atypical cases.

The United States has a long-established system of interlocking protection against BSE. The first measure protects human and animal health in the United States. The most important is the removal of specified risk material – or parts of an animal that would contain BSE if an animal had the disease – of all slaughter animals. The second guarantee is a strong feed ban that protects cattle from the disease. Another important part of the US system that led to this discovery is the ongoing BSE monitoring and testing program that allows USDA to detect the disease when it is present in very small quantities in the US cattle population.

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