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Mad cow disease reported in AL

An Alabama cow has tested positive for mad cow disease, U.S. officials announced.


An Alabama cow has tested positive for mad cow disease, U.S. officials announced Monday, making it the third case of mad cow in the country since 2003.

The chief veterinarian for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Monday that the Alabama cow had not entered the food supply market for humans or other animals. The medical term for mad cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The cow was euthanized before the tests were done. "The animal was buried on the (Alabama) farm and it did not enter the animal or human food chains," said John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer.

"We are now working with Alabama health officials to conduct an epidemiological investigation to gather any further information we can on the herd of origin of this animal."

Clifford added that the USDA will also work with the Food and Drug Administration to determine the cow's feed history. "Experience worldwide has shown us that it is highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring. Nevertheless, all animals of interest will be tested for BSE."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), BSE was first discovered in the United Kingdom in 1986. The WHO BSE Web site also notes that "(BSE) is a transmissible, neurodegenerative, fatal brain disease of cattle. The disease has a long incubation period of four to five years, but ultimately is fatal for cattle within weeks to months of its onset."

The USDA's Clifford said Americans should not worry about the spread of BSE in the U.S. because of complex governmental safeguards against the disease.

"By any measure, the incidence of BSE in this country is extremely low," he said in a statement released Monday. "We have conducted surveillance in the United States since 1990 and following the initial positive in December 2003, we developed an enhanced surveillance program. Since June 2004, all sectors of the cattle industry have cooperated in this program by submitting samples from more than 640,000 animals from the highest risk populations and more than 20,000 from clinically normal, older animals, as part our enhanced BSE surveillance program.

"To date, including the animal in today's announcement, only two of these highest risk animals have tested positive for the disease as part of the enhanced surveillance program."

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Related Links:

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

World Health Organization Mad Cow website

Centers for Disease Control Mad Cow website

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