Mad cow disease case confirmed in Scotland

A case of mad cow disease has been discovered on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the Scottish government ...

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 3:29 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 3:29 PM

A case of mad cow disease has been discovered on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the Scottish government has confirmed.

The incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), as the disease is officially known, was identified "as a result of strict control measures we have in place," according to a spokesman for the authorities in Edinburgh.


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It has been described as an "isolated case" and did not enter the human food chain, meaning there is no risk to human health, a spokesman for Food Standards Scotland said. The specific farm was not identified.

BSE attacks a cow's central nervous system and is usually fatal. Before that, the animal becomes aggressive and loses its coordination, which is why the illness has been dubbed "mad cow disease."

It has been linked to a fatal, brain-wasting disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is transmitted by eating contaminated meat from affected cattle.

This is the first incidence of BSE in Scotland since a massive outbreak devastated the farming industry over several years.

It was first detected in British cattle in 1986 and between then and 2001, 180,000 cattle were affected. The outbreak reached its peak in January 1993, when almost 1,000 new cases were reported every week.

A global ban on the export of British beef was imposed in March 1996 and this remained in place until the EU lifted it 10 years later.

Speaking on Thursday, Sheila Voas, Scotland's chief veterinary officer, said: "While it is too early to tell where the disease came from in this case, its detection is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job. We are working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to answer this question, and in the meantime, I would urge any farmer who has concerns to immediately seek veterinary advice."

Fergus Ewing, Scotland's rural economy secretary, said the government has set up a precautionary ban on the movement of animals from the farm, which is "standard procedure."

Ewing said the case represents "further proof that our surveillance system for detecting this type of disease is working."

READ: Mad Cow Disease fast facts

All animals over four years of age that die on a farm are routinely tested for BSE under the Scottish government's comprehensive surveillance system. Though it is not directly transmitted between animals, "its cohorts, including offspring" will now be destroyed in line with European Union requirements, the Scottish government said.

Ewing added: "Be assured that the Scottish government and its partners stand ready to respond to any further confirmed cases of the disease in Scotland."

Ian McWatt, director of operations at Food Standards Scotland, noted that there are "strict controls in place to protect consumers from the risk of BSE" and that officials remain vigilant.

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