California Cow Is Mad

The USDA has just confirmed that a dairy cow in California had bovine spungiform encephalopathy (BSE) sometimes known as “Mad Cow Disease,” which causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a deadly human disease affecting the brain. The animal was about to be, or was in the process of being, “rendered” … turned into glue or soap, most likely … and none of it entered the food supply. It has not been demonstrated that BSE can be transferred to humans via milk. Even so, cattle futures have dropped sharply in Chicago over the last few hours.

From Reuters:

The carcass of the cow, which the USDA said was infected by an “atypical” form of the disease, would be destroyed. The cow was not believed to have contracted the disease by eating contaminated food, the USDA added.

“There is really no concern for alarm here with regards to this animal. Both human health and animal health are protected with regards to this issue,” Clifford told reporters at a briefing at USDA headquarters.

The total number of knnown cases of cattle with BSE in mainly industrialized countries worldwide is 188,579, the vast majority, 183,841, having been in the United Kingdom during an epidemic starting in 1986. The total number of Creutzfeldt-Jakob in the same set of countries is 280, again with the vast majority (175) having been in the UK. (This does not count similar brain diseases known in some non-industrialized parts of the world.)

In the US there have been a total of 4 cattle with BSE, all between 1993 and 2008, and 4 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, the latter possibly associated with prior residence in the UK during the epidemic. In other words, the finding of this “Mad Cow” in California probably does not constitute any real concern, but is (appropriately) being taken seriously by authorities.

Comments

  1. #1 Anne
    April 24, 2012

    It is highly unlikely that this cow had the same form of mad cow disease seen in England. Sporadic cases are known to happen that are not related to being fed contaminated feed (atypical). This incident should not reflect badly on the safety of our beef supply.

  2. #2 g724
    April 25, 2012

    It would be interesting to know in what county this cow originated, and how this particular cow came to the attention of authorities to the point where it was tested.

    And despite the scarcity of BSE and CJD in the US, there’s no way I’m ever going to eat in a restaurant that has “brains” on the menu (in Mexican restaurants the things to watch out for are “sesos” and “cabezas”). Anything nasty that gets into the brain of a cow or other meat animal, has a sufficiently high probability of passing the blood/brain barrier in humans that I don’t want to mess with it. There are plenty of other things to eat without taking that risk.

    However I have no fear of (pasteurized) dairy products, and at this very moment I’m enjoying some ice cream.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    April 25, 2012

    Yeah, it seems possible that this is a BSE variant that jumped from an innocuous prion to a pathogenic one in situ. Probably happens now and then.

  4. #4 george.w
    April 25, 2012

    I want twenty bucks every time I hear an official say anything like “There is really no concern for alarm here…”

    Then at least I could get lunch for me and the mrs. Unless the official in question has told us that there’s no cause for alarm in whatever the lunch is made of.

  5. #5 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “And despite the scarcity of BSE and CJD in the US”

    Is this because it is scarce, or that it is scarcely reported?

    The UK government wanted to call it not BSE so that their beef could be sold to France.

    Note too that the USA do not want to say whether there are any GMOs in their exports. So it’s not like “not saying” isn’t something that they’re willing to do, is it.

  6. #6 ConsoleatLaw
    April 26, 2012

    Only 4 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease since 1993? I find this very hard to believe since I personally know 2 people who were infected and ultimately died of the disease! There is cause for ALARM!

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    April 26, 2012

    Yes, in the US. I’m not sure what your knowing means.