BSE in an Alabama cow
On March 13, 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the confirmation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a cow in Alabama. This is the eighth confirmed case of BSE in North American cattle and the second case since the beginning of 2006. Three cases were detected in the United States and five in Canada. One of the two previous U.S. cases was of Canadian origin, and the first of the five cases detected in Canada was in a cow that had been imported from the United Kingdom.
The newly confirmed case was identified in a non-ambulatory (downer) cow on a farm in Alabama. The animal was euthanized by a local veterinarian and buried on the farm. USDA surveillance is targeted at those animal populations in which BSE would most likely be found. These animals primarily include clinically abnormal or deceased cattle, which would not be expected to enter the human food supply. The cow in Alabama did not enter either the animal or the human food chains, according to the USDA announcement. USDA is working with Alabama animal health officials to conduct an epidemiologic investigation to gather additional information about the age and herd of origin of this animal, which had resided on the Alabama farm for less than a year.
The agency also will work to identify other cows born in the same herd within one year of the affected animal, and any offspring. In addition, USDA is working with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials to determine any feed history that may be relevant to the investigation. "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 USDA statement.
BSE is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unconventional transmissible agent. Strong evidence indicates that BSE has been transmitted to humans, primarily in the United Kingdom, causing a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). As of March 2006, a total of 190 cases of vCJD have been reported worldwide; of these, 160 occurred in the United Kingdom. Two cases have been reported in the United States; for both of these cases, there was clear epidemiologic evidence that the disease was acquired in the United Kingdom.
For additional information about the newly confirmed BSE case, see the USDA announcement available on the USDA website at www.usda.gov.