USDA: Mad Cow Risk in U.S. Still Low
Mad Cow Case Likely Imported From Canada
Dec. 29, 2003 -- Even though the first case of mad cow disease
in the U.S. has now been confirmed, officials stress that the more than 10,000
pounds of meat involved in the subsequent recall pose "virtually no
risk" to consumers.
A British laboratory confirmed that the dairy cow that tested
positive in early tests for mad cow disease at a Washington state slaughter
facility on Dec. 9 was indeed infected with the disease also known as bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
But U.S. officials say new evidence suggests that the infected
cow was born in Canada in April 1997 and was likely infected before feed bans
enacted in August 1997 prohibited the use of cattle feed containing protein
from cows, goats, or sheep.
"Even with the finding of this single cow, the U.S. remains
at very low risk," says USDA Chief Veterinary Officer Ron DeHaven, DVM, in
a briefing today. "There is no indication that we have the magnitude of
problem that Europe has experienced in years past."
New Information on Infected Cow
DeHaven says records show the infected cow was six and a half
years old at the time it was slaughtered in Washington. The dairy cow had three
calves before its death. One calf died shortly after birth, another was in the
same herd, and the third is in a separate herd in Washington.
Officials say all of the offspring are under a hold order by
the state of Washington in order to aid in the investigation, not to prevent
the spread of the disease.
BSE or mad cow disease is not a contagious disease and is not
spread from animal to animal or animal to person. Instead, the main means of
transmission is from eating cow products containing infected tissue, such as
brain or spinal cord tissue.
"Even though we are following up on these three calves,
maternal transmission -- transmission from the cow to her offspring -- is a
rare means of transmission, if it occurs at all," says DeHaven. "The
calves are on hold orders out of an abundance of caution in order to preserve
international confidence that we in fact have the situation well in