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UK registers atypical case of mad cow disease, informs health authority

The United Kingdom has recorded an unusual case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) a disease known as mad cow disease, in a 17-year-old dairy cow, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

According to the agency, the animal has already been slaughtered and investigations are being carried out in the region where the cow was found.

The exact location of the farm was not included in the report to protect the farmer’s identity and well-being, according to the entity.

The OIE further states that the registration of this case does not change the BSE disease risk status in the UK.

In February of this year, a diagnosis of the disease was confirmed in Brazil.

An examination performed at a reference laboratory in Canada confirmed that it was an atypical infection.

At the time, China even suspended meat exports.

What is mad cow disease

A Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a disease of the nervous system of cattle, which has a long incubation period of between two and eight years, and occasionally longer. There is currently no treatment or vaccine against the condition.

It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases, characterized by the accumulation in nerve tissue of an abnormal infectious protein called a prion. This group includes variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects humans.

Classic BSE was first diagnosed in cattle in the UK in 1986, but has likely been present in the country’s bovine population since the 1970s or earlier, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). It was then reported in 25 countries other than the UK, primarily in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

Currently, as a result of the successful implementation of effective control measures, the prevalence of classic BSE is extremely low, as is its global health impact and risk to public health.

The disease can be divided into two forms, according to the OIE. The classic version occurs through the consumption of contaminated food. Although the classic form was identified as a significant threat in the 1990s, its occurrence has declined markedly in recent years, as a result of the successful implementation of effective control measures, and is now estimated to be extremely low.

The atypical version refers to naturally occurring and sporadic forms, which are believed to occur in all cattle populations at a very low rate and which have only been identified in older cattle during intensive surveillance.

In the early 2000s, atypical prions causing atypical mad cow disease were identified as a result of enhanced surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The number of atypical cases is insignificant, according to the OIE.

Indeed, although to date there is no evidence that the atypical version is transmissible, the ‘recycling’ of the atypical mad cow agent has not been ruled out and therefore measures to manage the risk of exposure in the food chain continue to be recommended as precautionary measure.

*With information from Lucas Rocha

Source: CNN Brasil

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