BSE in Ireland: Potential contamination of feed has become the prime suspect in probe
Where did this latest BSE case spring from? There are three possible answers.
Because this cow was only born in 2010, it makes the likelihood of feed contamination incredibly small, but this is still the prime target of the department's investigations.
Despite a ban on meat and bonemeal in 1999, department officials readily accept that this measure was not really enforced until 2001, when people began to understand the risks of cross-contamination in feed.
However, BSE cases continued to crop up in animals that were born after this period, usually followed by discoveries of feed that had been lodged in the corner of a silo somewhere that had belatedly made its way into the feed chain.
Another theory could be that the mother of the cow may have passed the disease onto her calf, which some scientific studies suggest is possible, if very rare.
But on the basis that this is a possibility, and that the mother of this cow was imported from abroad, it is possible that she came from a region where controls over feed were not as tight as here.
Equally plausible is the suggestion that this is a case of 'atypical BSE', as opposed to the 'classical BSE' that is acquired by bovines that eat contaminated meat and bone meal when they are calves. Atypical BSE occurs sporadically among cattle and, although extremely rare, approximately 40 cases have been discovered, according to UCD's Associate Professor of Human Health, Pat Wall.
"We only started discovering these cases when we had robust testing systems in place to pick up classical BSE," said Prof Wall.