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MEDIA ALERT – BSE/”Mad Cow” Disease

The U.S. government has closed the Canadian border to shipments of cattle and beef after confirmation of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the so-called “mad cow” disease. The degenerative nerve disease was found in one eight-year-old cow in Alberta. It was the first reported BSE case in Canada in more than a decade.

Agricultural economist Thomas Wahl, director of Washington State University’s IMPACT Center, is available for interview on potential impacts on U.S. economy and consumers. He may be reached at 509/335-6653 (W) 509/332-7481 (H), 509/432-1629 (cell) or by e-mail at wahl@wsu.edu. Wahl says in 2002 the U.S. imported 420,321 tons of fresh and frozen beef from Canada. He expects the outbreak in Canada to reduce America’s supply of beef, thus driving consumer prices up. At the same time, consumers may “back away from beef.”

FACTS
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a chronic, degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system of cattle.

  • First diagnosed in 1986 in Great Britain.
  • About 95 percent of cases have occurred in the United Kingdom.
  • Disease confirmed in native-born cattle in other European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.
  • Not known to exist in the United States.

SOURCE: The BSE Inquiry United Kingdom Web site at http://www.bseinquiry.gov.uk/.

HUMAN CONCERNS
It is generally assumed that Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), first diagnosed in 1996, is caused by the transmission of BSE to humans. 137 confirmed or suspected cases were reported in the European Union up to 1 Jan. 2003, mostly in young people. Most cases have occurred in the UK (129) and some in France (6). One case has been reported in each of Ireland and Italy. SOURCE: European Union Web site at http://ec.europa.eu/food/index_en.htm.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES
A Canadian Press report is available at: http://www.canada.com/national/

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration BSE Contingency Plan is available at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/bse/contingency.html

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