Mad Cow Disease Comes to U.S.
December 24, 2003
By Louis Wittig : eCureMe Staff Writer
December 23th, 2003 : Physician Reviewed
Already reeling from a tough Flu season, Americans received an
early, unwelcome Christmas gift this season; the specter of Mad
Cow disease. Federal authorities announced on Tuesday that a
slaughtered cow in Washington state had been diagnosed as having
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - popularly known as
Mad Cow disease.
By Tuesday evening, nations as far afield as Japan and South Korea
reacted to the discovery by banning U.S. beef imports. U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman took to the airwaves to assure
Americans no infected meat had entered the food supply.
BSE is a progressive neurological disorder that occurs in cattle
as a result of a rare infection. While the exact origin of the
infection is a mystery to scientists, most accept that it’s
caused by a mutated cell component known as a prion protein. When
prion proteins occur in brain cells, the brain begins to waste away.
Many small holes occur in the cattle’s brain, leaving it
The danger to humans is that in eating infected beef products,
consumers could ingest prions and contract the human form of BSE,
a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Like BSE, vCJD
is a degenerative neurological disease. Invariably fatal,
there’s no known cure for vCJD and few treatments. Cases are
characterized by failing memory and a lack of coordination that
can progress to blindness, muscles weakness and coma. Most die
within twelve months of being diagnosed, however symptoms can take
up to years after infection to become noticeable.
The current outbreak shouldn’t worry consumers, federal
officials maintain, because the most infectious parts of a
slaughtered cow are its brain and spinal cord. Muscle cuts of beef,
the most commonly eaten, are at relatively low risk of transmitting
prion proteins. The greatest threat is that highly infectious
material from one cow could contaminate a larger amount of
widely-available beef product during processing.
The brain and spinal cord of the Washington state cow were disposed
of before the steer was processed, officials say. The meat company
that processed the cow has voluntarily recalled over five tons of
beef that may have come in contact with it.
Consumers seeking information should go to the Department of
or call the deparment’s toll free information line
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