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California Dairy Cow Had Mad Cow Disease


The first case in six years of a cow with mad cow disease (properly called bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) has been found in California.

The cow was identified at a rendering facility as part of routine testing for the brain-wasting disease, John Clifford, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian, told reporters today at a briefing.

Hurrying to reassure the general public, the USDA noted that mad cow disease cannot be transmitted through milk from dairy animals, and that, in any case, this particular cow never entered the human food chain.

While mad cow disease is rare in this country, it’s nonetheless very alarming, since humans infected with BSE contract a form of the same disease known as variant-Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (vCJD), which basically turns your brain into a sponge-like mush and you lose control of your nervous system.

A massive outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s was blamed for the deaths of 180,000 cattle and more than 150 people.

This is the fourth BSE case found in the U.S. herd, and the first since March 2006. Scientists say the disease is spread through feed that contains brain or spinal cord tissue from infected animals. In other words, cows who should be out on a pasture eating grass are in factory farms being fed concoctions that include ground-up parts of other dead cows. Such cannibalism is considered a sure-fire way to communicate this dreaded disease. The human version, CJD, is sometimes found in tribes of people who eat the brains of their dead as part of a funeral ritual.

Since 1997, feed made from mammals has been banned from cattle rations and high-risk materials such as brains have been kept from the human food supply. The latest BSE case was“atypical,” Dr. Clifford said, meaning that its disease form is very rare and not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed.

Still, as rumors began to circulate before the press briefing, live cattle futures tumbled in the markets. The USDA sought to reassure the public with a statement that included saying:

The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE. … USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products. As the epidemiological investigation progresses, USDA will continue to communicate findings in a timely and transparent manner.

Cows who contract this disease, stumble and fall and can’t get up. They shake and go into spasms, have fits, go blind and suffer many other horrible symptoms before dying.

Nobody at the USDA, at the factory farm, in the major media, or any other official circles expressed any concern for the cow who died from this dreadful disease – presumably from being fed the ground-up body parts of other members of her herd.