Filed Under: Mad Cow Disease

Five years later, and still no American mad cows

In the years since social activists started trying to convince Americans that the British mad-cow-disease problem would be here soon, science has been catching up with the scaremongers.

The European Union has found that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE — the scientific name for “mad cow”) can’t be transmitted to sheep. Earlier tests had to be thrown out when it was discovered that scientists had been testing cow brains all along, not the sheep brains they thought they had.

The World Health Organization has declared that there is “no evidence” that chronic wasting disease (CWD) passes to human beings. CWD is a naturally occurring deer disease similar to mad-cow in cattle.

Two American scientists reported last month that the human version of British mad cow disease (known as “variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease”) may be caused by a common bacterium, rendering it easily treatable with antibiotics and antioxidants.

According to The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, new guarantees against future mad-cow outbreaks may soon come from breeding techniques producing cattle that are naturally immune to BSE.

Today’s Reuters news wire includes a story confirming that while mad cow disease might have infected more British cows than previously thought, the real-life risk to people has never been lower. Epidemiologist Christl Donnelly told Reuters that while science never says that there’s “zero risk” for anything, the mad-cow risk to humans “is certainly far lower than it has been for 20 years.”

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