Mad Cow Disease Discovered In Single Alabama Cow: What Now?

Image courtesy of BenjaminThompson

Although the words “mad cow” may strike fear deep into the center of your beef-loving stomach, there’s no need to freak out over a recent report of a single cow in Alabama that has come down with the disease.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, inspectors detected an atypical case — meaning it was spontaneous and rare incident — of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in an 11-year old cow in Alabama.

The animal was discovered during routine surveillance at an Alabama livestock market, the state’s agriculture department said.

Following delivery to the livestock market the cow later died at that location, officials said. Routine tissue samples were taken and sent off for testing and confirmation.

Your Burger Is Safe

First of all, don’t panic: Even though BSE can be fatal to humans that eat tainted meat, this animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the U.S., the USDA says.

Mad cow isn’t contagious, so there is no fear it will spread to other animals that were nearby.

Atypical vs. Classical Mad Cow

There are two kinds of mad cow:

Classic BSE: This is the kind of mad cow disease that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, and has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people. The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle.

However, Food and Drug Administration regulations have prohibited the inclusion of any kind of mammalian protein in feed for cattle other ruminants since 1997 and have also prohibited high risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.

Atypical: This form arises rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations, generally occurring in cattle eight years or older. It is not usually associated with ruminant by-products being fed to ruminants.

Mad Cow In The U.S.

This is only the country’s fifth detection of mad cow, the USDA says: In the four previous cases, the first was a case of classical BSE imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical. Again, this is likely due to the fact that it’s illegal to feed cattle anything containing ruminant byproducts.

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