In Alabama, an 11-year-old cow tested positive for “atypical” strain of the prion disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). It is also known as mad cow disease, as per the US Department of Agriculture.
The cow tested positive, called L-type BSE, during a livestock market routine surveillance where the animal exhibited clinical signs. The USDA stressed this case posed no threat to health and would not change the international risk status in the country, and also will not cause any beef trade issues.
“This animal was never into the slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the human health or food supply in the United States,” the USDA said in a statement.
BSE, like all spongiform encephalopathy diseases, includes malformed prion proteins that shoot normal proteins to clump and deform in the brain and spinal cord. In cows, it results in tremors, balance issues, and behavior changes, such as hyper-activity and excessive aggression.
Classic BSE, or C-type, basically spreads cattle through feed contaminated with bone or meat from an infected animal. This was the case in the mad cow outbreaks devastating the UK herds from the 1980s to early 2000s. The C-type also spread to people eating the brain, spinal cord, or the infected animal’s digestive tract, causing the BSE human counterpart of BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
Because of such outbreaks, there is strict surveillance of the US livestock and a ban on using mammalian protein in livestock feed, and other safeguards. However, only few dozen cases are reported and the Alabama cow is the fourth detected in the US.