Agriculture Department investigating possible U.S. case of mad cow disease

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Picture of a cow.

The Associated Press has reported that the United States Department of Agriculture is currently investigating a possible case of mad cow disease. USDA official John Clifford said that a routine test indicated the possible presence of the disease.

The Agriculture Department says that the first test was inconclusive and that further tests are being conducted in the department's laboratory in Ames, Iowa; however, those test results for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) will not be available for at least 4-7 days.

"This inconclusive result does not mean we have found a new case of BSE. Inconclusive results are a normal component of most screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive," said Clifford. "We remain very confident in the safety of U.S. beef."

Clifford also stated that no parts of the cow have entered the human food or animal feed chain.

At least 150 human deaths worldwide have been linked to the consumption of affected cattle, most in the United Kingdom. One case of the disease was reported in a human in the U.S., but the Centers for Disease Control believe that the individual got it while traveling in the U.K.

The U.S. has had a total of two previously confirmed cases of the disease. The most recent occurred in June when, for the first time, a calf born in the U.S. tested positive for the disease. The first case was in December 2003 when the disease was found in a cow born in Canada located at a Washington State farm.

On March 3, the EU confirmed Sweden's first case of mad cow disease. Canada reported its fourth case of mad cow disease in January.

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