BSE: Everything YOU need to know
Published 11/06/2015 | 14:00
Here is everything you need to know about BSE.
Q. What is BSE?
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a disease that affects adult cattle. BSE attacks the brain and central nervous system of the animal and eventually causes death.
Commonly known as 'Mad-Cow Disease', BSE has a long incubation period. This means that it usually takes four to six years for cattle infected with BSE to show signs of the disease, such as disorientation, clumsiness and, occasionally, aggressive behaviour.
Q. Where does BSE come from?
BSE was first confirmed in cattle in the UK in 1986. The first case in Ireland was confirmed in 1989, when there were 15 cases confirmed. Most experts agree that BSE was most likely spread by cattle eating feed that contained contaminated Meat and Bone Meal (MBM). It was incorporated into cattle feed until it was banned in the 1990s.
The practice of feeding MBM to cattle has been banned in Ireland since in 1990.
Q. What danger is BSE to people?
BSE only develops in cattle, but it belongs to a family of prion diseases, several of which can affect humans. The most commonly known disease in this group among humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). This is a rare and fatal form of dementia that normally occurs in individuals between the ages of 40 and 80.
CJD is not a new disease among humans, but in 1996, scientists discovered a new strain of CJD that occurs predominantly in younger people.
More recent evidence has shown that the protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals with this new form of CJD is similar to the protein found in cattle infected with BSE, rather than that found in classical CJD. Because of this discovery, the new illness in humans is known as variant CJD or vCJD.