On April 24, 2012, a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - better known as "mad cow disease" - was confirmed. The animal infected was a dairy cow in central California. Here are the details you need to stay safe.
What is mad cow disease? BSE - bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific name for mad cow disease - is a disease that destroys the brain and spinal cord in cattle and is ultimately deadly.
Why is there concern regarding human health? Though people cannot get BSE, in rare cases, they can contract a human form of the disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). This is also a fatal disease. The only way in which this can happen is if nerve tissue (the brain or spinal cord) of the infected animal is eaten by a human. There is NO evidence that people can get mad cow disease or vCJD from eating meat (ground beef, roasts, steaks, etc.) or from consuming milk or milk products.
In this case, have humans been infected? John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stated in a press conference that "both human and animal health are protected with regards to this issue." The meat from the infected dairy cow did not enter the food chain and it will be destroyed.
What about the milk that came from this cow? Could I be infected from drinking her milk? It is important to note that FDA and other major health organizations have affirmed that milk does not carry BSE, therefore it is safe to drink.
Is mad cow disease common? Not in the United States.The most recent case of BSE in the U.S. was in Texas in 2005.
Is mad cow disease contagious? No, BSE is not contagious.
If you have questions about BSE, please submit a question to the experts.