The USDA confirmed Tuesday that a dairy cow from central California was found to have a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – otherwise known as “mad cow disease.”
A release by the USDA states that the cow never posed a risk to human health because it was never put up for slaughter. Further, according to the USDA, milk and dairy products cannot transmit BSE.
This was the fourth cow in the nation to be infected with BSE, and the first confirmed report since 2006. The cow was found at a rendering facility during a routine testing for the disease.
The age and the birthplace of the cow are being investigated, according to the release.
BSE cannot be transmitted from cow to cow, but through the food an animal eats, according to the USDA. Humans can become infected with the disease through eating tissue of an infected cow. However, officials believe the food supply was not effected by this latest case of BSE.
The California Department of Public Health issued this statement: "There is no public health threat due to the discovery of BSE in a dairy cow. The food supply in California has not been affected by this discovery, and residents do not need to take any specific precautions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has many procedures in place to keep this disease from entering the food chain, and the detection found is evidence that the system of safeguards is working. The cow in question was not slaughtered for food and BSE is not transmitted in milk."
Cows infected with BSE will exhibit symptoms like nervousness, aggression, abnormal posture and loss of body weight, according to the release.
The USDA lists on their website that a link between BSE and a variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), is not scientifically proven, but there is strong data showing some humans becoming infected with vCJD after consuming BSE infected meat.
BSE fatally attacks a cow’s brain, causing the classic symptoms of “mad cow” disease. Humans infected with vCJD will suffer similar damage to their brains.
According to the USDA, there has been only one confirmed vCJD case in the U.S. since 2003. At total of 153 cases have been reported around the world in the same time span.
Also, according to the USDA, cooking and irradiation have not been shown to kill the BSE agent.
“Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world. In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99% reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases. This is directly attributable to the impact and effectiveness of feed bans as a primary control measure for the disease,” USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford wrote in a release.
The last cow in the U.S. found to be infected with BSE was in Alabama, found March 2006. That cow exhibited the classic symptoms of BSE, and was ultimately killed and disposed of before it could enter the food supply.
The first confirmed case of “mad cow” in the U.S. back in 2003 caused the U.S. to lose some trade markets among fears of further infected cows. According to Tuesday's release, the detection of the new infected cow does not affect the nation’s status on BSE, nor should it affect trade.