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Search Underway for Any More ‘Mad Cows’

The dead Hanford, CA dairy cow with laboratory-confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is now the centerpiece of an investigation into whether there are any more mad cows in the vicinity.

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Dairymen in the Central Valley of California have been told state and federal officials are testing the BSE-infected animal’s feeding herd, which could include some of its own offspring, and other cows in the area that were born about the same time.

A spokesman for Western United Dairymen said its members maintain “meticulous records” on birth dates, parentage, and linkages to other animals – all easily traceable – and such documentation should help investigators.

Baker Commodities, the Los Angeles-based company that owns the transfer rendering station at Hanford, also announced it not only was holding the diseased carcass in cold storage, but all other cows that arrived with it on the same truck.

It was Baker’s participation in a random sampling program that returned the BSE-infected brain tissue, one of 40,000 samples USDA plans to take this year.

The BSE-infected carcass is in quarantine where it will remain until state and federal officials ordered it destroyed. The exact location of  the dairy farm where  the diseased cow lived and died on or before April 18 has not been disclosed.

The Hanford dairy cow did not show any “mad cow” signs – such as difficulty walking – before it died, making investigators especially interested in testing its calves and cohorts.   

Officials conducting the investigation are not going to be surprised if they do not find anything.  BSE is not a contagious disease, and is not spread through casual contact between animals.

USDA scientists believe transmission is usually through feed contaminated with a sufficient amount of tissues or organs containing the BSE agent from an infected animal .  

That is why the practice of recycling bovine carcasses into a meat and bone meal protein product was banned as cattle feed.

The Hanford dairy cow was found with an atypical BSE not believed to have originated with feed.

While the investigation continues, 48 hours after the announcement the beef industry was breathing a big sigh of relief.  On news that Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and Mexico do not plan to change their import policies, cattle prices sprang back from panic selling that occurred just before the announcement.

In some quarters, the beef industry was even crediting itself for “swift reaction to BSE case,” to lift part of a headline from the industry journal Meat & Poultry.com.

“Industry reaction to a recently confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) came swiftly as trade groups, scientists and educations worked to quiet concerns about the safety of the U.S. beef and milk supply,” Meat & Poultry reported.

The beef industry was also happy to have both government officials and consumer advocates telling the public the discovery of the mad cow was no threat to the food supply, including meat and dairy products.  

From a risk viewpoint, the odds of getting human mad cow disease were reported to be one in 10 billion even after eating something contaminated with a BSE agent.  And the odds were figured not by a Nevada bookie, but by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the Hanford cow is only the fourth BSE case discovered in the U.S., there is another kind of animal prion disease also relevant to humans, according to the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center in Cleveland.

That other kind is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a prion disease of elk and deer.  It is not at all uncommon for elk and deer hunters to find animals infected with CWD.  Chronic wasting occurs at epidemic levels in the U.S. elk and deer herd of about 22 million, mostly centered in about a dozen western and Midwestern states.

Since November 2004, the surveillance center, located on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, has performed autopsies on 26 hunters with suspected prion disease, but says all had either sporadic or familial forms of the disease, meaning there has not yet been any documented case of transmission to a human from an elk or deer.

Also, no case of the human version — called variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease or vCJD — has ever been associated with U.S. beef.   In 2004, vCJD caused a death in the U.S., but originated in the United Kingdom. In 2006, there were two vCJD deaths in the U.S., but one originated in the UK, and the other in Saudi Arabia.

If the latest BSE case in California were feed-related, it would be a different story because trace back of the animal’s feed sources would be required, and some wonder whether USDA could pull that off.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, said the nation’s fourth case of mad cow disease underscores the need for a strong national animal identification system.  USDA needs “to improve animal traceability and ensure the health of our domestic livestock,” she said.

Beyond the brands and tags they have always used, farmers and ranchers have for a decade resisted new animal ID schemes proposed by USDA.

© Food Safety News
  • http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/ Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

    spontaneous mutation is a myth. never proven for any natural field case of bse. it’s one of three hypothesis put forward by scientist, and the spontaneous mutation theory is at the bottom of the list. sporadic and or spontaneous CJD, which is 85%+ of all CJD, simply means from ‘unknown source/origin’. it does NOT mean that 85%+ of all CJD i.e. sporadic/sponaneous just happens from a bad funked out twisted the wrong way protein. atypical L-type BSE or BASE, has been linked to sporadic CJD. it’s looking more and more like a link from the L-type atypical BSE to the Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy TME. that would mean L-type BASE BSE would have been in North America for decades. the lies about the feed not being a source for atypical mad cow disease is just that, lies. a day or two before the 4th mad cow, I put out an update on Canada BSE and Canada CJD in two links. see at the bottom…terry
    Wednesday, April 25, 2012
    4th MAD COW DISEASE U.S.A. CALIFORNIA ATYPICAL L-TYPE BSE 2012
    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2012/04/4th-mad-cow-disease-usa-california.html
    America’s Mad Cow crisis by John Stauber
    Wednesday, April 25, 2012 America’s Mad Cow Crisis by John Stauber
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/26-1
    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2012/04/americas-mad-cow-crisis-by-john-stauber.html
    strange, I put these two together the day before the USA 4th mad cow was announced. maybe it was an omen
    Monday, April 23, 2012
    CREUTZFELDT JAKOB DISEASE CJD HUMAN TSE CANADA UPDATE 2012
    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2012/04/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cjd-human-tse.html
    Monday, April 23, 2012
    BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY BSE CJD TSE PRION DISEASE UPDATE CANADA 2012
    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2012/04/bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy-bse.html
    Wednesday, April 25, 2012
    USA MAD COW DISEASE AND CJD THERE FROM SINGELTARY ET AL 1999 – 2012
    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2012/04/usa-mad-cow-disease-and-cjd-there-from.html
    TSS

  • http://www.foodanimalconcerns.org/filthyfeed/ Steven Roach

    While it is true that “recycling bovine carcasses into a meat and bone meal protein product was banned as cattle feed” in 1997, the FDA still allows the feeding of poultry litter which routinely contains proteins from recycled bovine carcasses. In fact, the plant where this cow was detected supplies meat and bone meal for poultry feed. While it is difficult for human to contract BSE from consumption of meat from infected cattle, it is not difficult for cattle and in fact no minimal dose has been determined for BSE fed to cattle but it is lower than a milligram.
    Also this statement “From a risk viewpoint, the odds of getting human mad cow disease were reported to be one in 10 billion even after eating something contaminated with a BSE agent. And the odds were figured not by a Nevada bookie, but by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” is incorrect. The risk is for consuming beef in the UK not eating beef known to be contaminated.