Atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy discovered in Alabama Cow

Cattle feed at a Nebraska feedlot

Cattle feed at a Nebraska feedlot. File Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has announced an atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in an 11-year-old cow in Alabama.

The typical strain of BSE, which likely caused fatal brain disease in humans in the United Kingdom, is most often spread when cow feed is supplemented with protein from animal stock that includes brain or spinal tissue from an infected animal, practices that have been banned in the United States since 1997.

It happened after the cow showed clinical signs at an Alabama livestock market and that veterinary officials are gathering more information on the case, said the USDA. "The response to this case by USDA officials and our department's professionals led by State Veterinarian Dr".

BSE is not contagious and exists in two types - classical and atypical. The classical form is the unsafe strain, since humans eating infected cows have been known to develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain disorder. "Classical BSE" is the form contracted by animals eating contaminated feed, according to a report by Harvest Public Media.

What's more, just like the previous atypical cases that were detected in Alabama, Texas and California, it doesn't affect our worldwide trading status. It arises spontaneously and rarely in all cattle populations. Many of those countries have since resumed importing USA beef that comply with certain rules.

The World Organization for Animal Health has recognized the United States as negligible risk for BSE. This categorization is a direct result of the fact that an atypical case occurs spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate.

"The United States has a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States, the most important of which is the removal of specified risk materials - or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease - from all animals presented for slaughter", USDA's statement said.

Safeguards such as routine surveillance and changes to cattle feed are credited with keeping the disease at bay.

The atypical variety differs from "classical" BSE linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, according to the USDA.

The U.S. Depertment of Agriculture says this is only the fifth case of this particular form of the disease ever confirmed in the United States.

But the big question is this: will the announcement affect our newly-birthed trade relationship with China?

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