Mad Cow disease confirmed in U.S.

Monday, March 13, 2006

John Clifford, Chief Veterinarian of the United States Department of Agriculture, confirms that tests done on a sample from a cow on a farm in Alabama indicate bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease. The original results were confirmed by a Western Blot Test.

"We received a positive result on a Western blot confirmatory test conducted at the USDA laboratories in Ames, Iowa, on samples from an animal that had tested 'inconclusive' on a rapid screening test performed on Friday, March 10, 2006. In this instance, the inconclusive result from the contract lab in Georgia was confirmed through a second rapid test at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. Now, the Western blot test has returned a positive result, and that is sufficient for us to confirm this animal to be positive for BSE, which is why we are making this announcement today," said Clifford.

"The samples were taken from a non-ambulatory animal on a farm in Alabama. A local private veterinarian euthanized and sampled the animal and sent the samples for further testing, which was conducted at one of our contract diagnostic laboratories at the University of Georgia. The animal was buried on the farm, and it did not enter the animal or human food chains," he added.

Clifford also says the cow was at least ten years old, explaining, "While epidemiological work to determine the animal’s precise age is just getting under way and is ongoing, the attending veterinarian has indicated that, based on dentition, it was an older animal, quite possibly upwards of 10 years of age. This would indicate that this animal would have been born prior to the implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s 1997 feed ban," and that they are still looking into where the cow could have been born and raised. The cow had only been on the Alabama farm for about a year. Clifford also confirmed that the cow was meant for producing beef.

"We will be working to locate animals from this cow’s birth cohort and any offspring," said Clifford. A birth cohort identifies animals born in the same herd within one year of the affected animal.

Clifford also adds that no part of the cow made it into the human food chain, saying, "I want to emphasize that human and animal health in the United States are protected by a system of interlocking safeguards, and that we remain very confident in the safety of U.S. beef. Again, this animal did not enter the human food or animal feed chains."

This is the third case of Mad Cow disease in the U.S. The first case turned up in December of 2003, when a cow from a Washington State farm, born in Canada, tested positive for the disease.

The second cow to test positive for the disease, found last June, was born on a farm in Texas.

On March 1, 2006, Sweden announced its first possible case of Mad Cow disease, and on January 23, Canada announced its fourth case of the disease.

Worldwide, at least 150 people have died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is linked to Mad Cow disease.

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