Health & Medicine

First case of mad cow disease since 2006 found in a U.S. herd

Cow_female_black_white_340662348.jpeg

A dairy cow from California, perhaps like the one pictured above, was diagnosed with mad cow disease this week, the first case in the United States since 2006. (Photo by Keith Weller/USDA via Wikimedia Commons.)

A dairy cow in California has been diagnosed with mad cow disease, properly known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, the first case in the United States since 2006 and just the fourth case overall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the infection in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

"There is really no concern for alarm here with regards to this animal. Both human health and animal health are protected with regards to this issue," John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer, said to reporters at the press conference.

Mad cow disease was first found in the United States in 2003 in a cow imported from Canada. The disease first emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s. It's believed to have originally spread from feeding cows byproducts of infected cows or sheep. 

Mad cow disease is believed to be the cause, or at least a contributing factor, to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans — a related disease that emerged in the U.K. 12 years after mad cow disease, the appropriate incubation period for that type of disorder.

As for the current case, the USDA says no part of the cow entered the nation's food system, meaning no meat or dairy products need be recalled.

The cow was found at a rendering plant, according to the USDA, which processes diseased or sick animals into non-edible products that are in some soaps, glues, anti-freeze and other products, Reuters said.

U.S. officials said they were still in the process of tracking the cow's life. They also noted the cow was infected with an "atypical" form of the disease — not believed to have been contracted from eating contaminated food.

The USDA said they were notifying global animal health officials and trading partners as well.