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.
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.