Possible first case of mad cow disease in Sweden

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The presence of vacuoles, microscopic "holes" in the gray matter, gives the brain of BSE-affected cows a sponge-like appearance when tissue sections are examined in the lab.

A suspected case of BSE, better known as mad cow disease, has been discovered in Sweden at a farm near Västerås some 80 kilometres west of Stockholm.

The affected farm has been quarantined and no ruminants from the farm are allowed to be sold or transported. The cow was destroyed earlier after symptoms of calving paralysis had been discovered, and the tests where carried out in accordance to rules set by the European Union (EU).

The Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) analysed a specimen from the cow at the farm this weekend. The tests confirmed the presence of BSE and the specimen was sent for further analysis at a United Kingdom laboratory.

If the British analysis confirms BSE in the specimen, it will be the first case of BSE in Sweden. The affected farmer told the Swedish public service radio: "As my father said, if we have to make history it would be a pity to do it this way."

BSE isn't transmitted directly between animals, but rather from feedstuffs containing tainted tissues from infected ruminants to healthy animals. Such cattle feeds have been prohibited in Sweden for many years, but as the affected cow was born in 1994 she might have been given such food in her early life.

The disease has been declining in the EU after restrictions and regulations were put in place or tightened following an epidemic of the disease in humans in the UK. In that outbreak 150 people died.

Sweden has been considered a low-risk country. Ten previous tests have all proven to be false alarms.