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What Mad Cow Means

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture was quick to assure the public earlier this week that the third case of mad cow disease did not pose a risk to them, but what federal officials have not acknowledged is that this latest case indicates the deadly disease has been circulating in U.S. herds for at least a decade.

The second case, which was detected last year in a Texas cow and which USDA officials were reluctant to verify, was approximately 12 years old.

These two cases (the latest was detected in an Alabama cow) present a picture of the disease having been here for 10 years or so, since it is thought that cows usually contract the disease from contaminated feed they consume as calves. The concern is that humans can contract a fatal, incurable, brain-wasting illness from consuming beef products contaminated with the mad cow pathogen.

'The fact the Texas cow showed up fairly clearly implied the existence of other undetected cases,' Dr. Paul Brown, former medical director of the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory for Central Nervous System Studies and an expert on mad cow-like diseases, told United Press International. 'The question was, `How many?` and we still can't
answer that.'

Brown, who is preparing a scientific paper based on the latest two mad cow cases to estimate the maximum number of infected cows that occurred in the United States, said he has 'absolutely no confidence  in USDA tests before one year ago' because of the agency's reluctance to retest the Texas cow that initially tested positive.

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