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Mad Cow Disease/BSE Print E-mail

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly know as mad cow disease, is the scientific term for a disease which affects the brains of cattle. BSE is not caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It is caused by infectious prions that are unique protein that bond with the brain cells, altering their composition and ultimately leading to death.

It is believed that the disease may be transmitted to human beings who eat infected carcasses. The disease in humans is called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease. To date, there have been 155 confirmed and probable cases of nvCJD worldwide.

The symptoms of BSE in cattle are, an excitable or nervous temperament to external stimuli such as touch to the skin, a progressive unsteadiness of gait resulting eventually in the inability to stand up. While new version Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans causes memory loss, emotional instability including inappropriate outbursts, an unsteady gait, progressing to marked weakness, severe rapidly progressive dementia and death, often within a year of the onset of symptoms.

A British inquiry into BSE concluded that the epidemic was caused by feeding cattle, which are normally herbivores, the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread. The origin of the disease itself remains unknown.

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