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Veterinarian says no cause for Mad Cow alarm

Health officials are urging people not to put too much emphasison an isolated case of Mad Cow disease in Washington.

“This is not an outbreak,” said Dr. Mike Gowan, a veterinarianwith the Brookhaven Animal Hospital. “I don’t think at this pointthere’s anything to worry about here. To my knowledge, it was justone cow and it’s been taken care of. I’m sure the rest of the herdhas been quarantined and is being tested.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Dec. 23 that apresumptive diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or”mad cow” disease) had been made in an adult Holstein dairy cow inWashington state.

Samples from the cow were taken Dec. 9 as part of a routine BSEsurveillance program and the diagnosis was made Dec. 22.

Scientists at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge,England, appeared to confirm the diagnosis Thursday, according tothe USDA. The scientists agreed with the reading of the U.S. tests,but final test results would not be made until the end of theweek.

The BSE surveillance testing has been routine since the late1980s or the early 1990s when an outbreak of mad cow diseasedecimated the European beef industry. Since then, Gowan, cowsshowing the signs of a neurological disorder are checked by stateveterinarians for BSE. The Washington Holstein is first Americancow to ever be diagnosed with the disease.

“I think the food supply right now is safe,” Gowan said.”Especially since it was one dairy cow and an isolated case. I’mstill eating it (beef) anyway.”

Mad cow disease can affect humans, Gowan said, but it must beconsumed in the meat of the cow.

“All of the cases in humans reported thus far have been fromeating the meat,” he said.

Gowan said he felt the U.S. beef industry would probably feelsome negative effect from the Washington diagnosis.

“I have fears there will be some problems there because somepeople may back away from eating beef, but I don’t know to whatdegree,” he said. “I do know I’m still going to eat it. I feelpretty confident about our food supply.”

Preliminary investigations in the Washington case indicate theinfected cow had been slaughtered and processed for consumption.Beef products are being recalled from establishments that may havereceived these products, according to the CDC.

“Strong evidence” indicates BSE has been transmitted to humansprimarily in the United Kingdom, where more than one million cattlemay have been infected. A total of only 153 cases of a variant formof Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which people receive by eatinginfected meat, have been recorded worldwide. Of those cases, 143are in the UK, according to the CDC.

“The risk to human health from BSE in the United States isextremely low,” the CDC said.

The BSE epidemic peaked in the United Kingdom in January 1993 atalmost 1,000 new cases a week. The outbreak there may have resultedfrom the feeding of scrapie – containing sheep meat-and-bone meal -to cattle. Government agencies have since banned that practice.

To prevent BSE from entering the U.S., severe restrictions wereplaced on the importation of live ruminants and certain ruminantproducts from countries where BSE was known to exist. Theserestrictions were later extended to include all European countries,Japan, and Israel.