Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size
A
A
A

Riding Herd on Mad Cow Disease


WebMD Health News

Feb. 16, 2001 (Washington) -- From European-made herbal supplements to candy and vaccines, a growing number of imported products from Europe and other regions of the world are coming under official scrutiny for fear that they might cause the human version of mad cow disease.

European products are being targeted in specific because mad cow disease, officially known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, has spread across that continent. Once predominately found in the U.K., cases have now been documented in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and other nations.

Mad cow is a cattle disease, but scientists have been able to establish a strong association between this cattle disease and the recent emergence of a new version of a human brain disorder called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Moreover, about 90 Europeans, all of whom reportedly ate tainted meat, have died of this disorder since the mad cow epidemic began there in the mid-1990s.

The fear that these other imported products also might cause the deadly brain disorder is due to the fact that, in some instances, these products were made using cattle parts. This fear has been compounded in part by the fact that no one knows how long it takes for the human version to incubate before the disease develops. This has created uncertainty about how many cases eventually will be reported, and whether tainted meat alone will account for all of these incidents.

For example, if it takes over a decade for the disease to incubate within a person, then we could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg, scientists say. Overall, scientists estimate the present risk of contracting the human form of mad cow in a country with tainted meat at about one in 40 million.

The risk that these other products might contain the infectious mad cow agent is at best "theoretical," says Murray Lumpkin, MD, a senior official of the FDA. But in some cases, he says, there is a good reason to believe that those products might pose at least a relative risk.

"When you get into some of these products, then you begin to run a full spectrum of risk," Lumpkin tells WebMD.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing