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Mad cow disease reported in Canada

U.S. temporarily bans Canadian beef

U.S. temporarily bans Canadian beef

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Canadian authorities announce the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease. CNN's Greg Clarkin reports (May 20)
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  • Mad cow disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1986, peaking in 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases per week. 
  • In 1996, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was detected in humans and linked to the mad cow epidemic. Eating contaminated meat and cattle products is presumed to be the cause.
  • Both are fatal brain diseases with unusually long incubation periods, often lasting years.
  • To date, no case of mad cow disease has been identified in the United States.
  • As of April 2, 2002, a total of 125 cases of vCJD had been reported in the world: 117 from the United Kingdom, six from France, and one each from Ireland and Italy.
    Source: CDC
  • EDMONTON, Canada (CNN) -- Canadian agriculture officials said Tuesday a cow slaughtered in Alberta in January tested positive for mad cow disease. It is the country's first case in 10 years.

    The 8-year-old cow was tested and killed in January after showing signs of illness, Canadian agriculture officials said. Tests at a laboratory in the United Kingdom on Tuesday confirmed signs of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. Samples from the cow tested positive for BSE last week, officials said. Canadian officials sent samples to the United Kingdom to confirm the test.

    Health officials said they think they have limited the spread of the disease. The meat from the cow was declared unfit for consumption, was kept from other meat bound for packing plants and stores, and the rendered byproduct was not mixed with byproduct from other cows, Canadian officials said.

    As a precautionary measure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it is temporarily banning Canadian beef. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the case appears isolated and that the risk to human health and of animal transmission is likely very low.

    "At this time we see no reason for any consumer to be concerned about the safety of the food supply, and in fact I intend to eat a steak tonight," she said.

    Veneman said she sent a technical team to Canada to investigate.

    The cow attracted attention at the slaughterhouse because it looked ill, said Debbie Barr, a veterinarian with Canada's food inspection agency. The animal was killed, declared unfit for consumption and samples were taken for testing, she said.

    At a press conference in Edmonton, health officials said tests were delayed because the cow, having been killed and its flesh kept from either the human or animal food chain, was not a priority.

    The cow's herd has been quarantined and health officials said they are investigating the cow's history. Barr said the cow has spent the last three years on a farm in northern Alberta, a western Canadian province. Disease control measures have been put in place, according to Canadian health authorities.

    BSE is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cattle.

    Canada's first case of mad cow disease appeared in 1993, in a beef cow imported from Britain in 1987. The animal carcass and the herd that cow came from were destroyed and additional measures were taken immediately by the federal government to deal with any risk that Canadian cattle might have been affected.

    Alberta is home to 42 percent of Canada's 13.7 million cattle. Canada exports beef to the United States, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.

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