Saturday 10 December 2016

Isolated case of BSE on a farm here 'doesn't herald a return to an epidemic'

Dr Patrick Wall

Published 14/06/2015 | 02:30

MASSIVE CULL: Back in the 90s, 180,000 cows were infected by mad cow disease in the UK
MASSIVE CULL: Back in the 90s, 180,000 cows were infected by mad cow disease in the UK

The isolated case of suspected BSE in a cow on a farm in Co Louth this week doesn't herald a return of the BSE epidemic.

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The biggest outbreak in cattle was in the UK where they had almost 180,000 cases, peaking in the 1990s. The inclusion of contaminated meat and bone meal in the cows' rations triggered the disease problem in the UK and resulted in smaller outbreaks in other cattle-producing countries where contaminated meat and bone meal was fed. The epidemic triggered a series of regulatory controls for the cattle and meat industry, which were serially strengthened as more information became available on how the disease behaved.

This is an unusual disease, not caused by a conventional microbe like a bacteria, virus or protozoa. The agent is called a prion protein which can form different shapes. When in its normal shape it is a structural protein in the brains and central nervous systems of all mammals.

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