Cow at South Carolina processing facility found to have mad cow disease, USDA says

A cow at a beef processing facility in South Carolina has tested positive for atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease,” according to The State.

The cow, which was around 5 years old and brought to the facility from Tennessee, showed signs of the disease and was euthanized “shortly after arriving at the facility,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The animal did not enter the facility.

“This was an isolated case that occurred. The United States has a robust system of safeguards designed to protect human and animal health against BSE. Those safeguards were successful and prevented entry into the public and animal food supply systems,” Michael Neault, South Carolina State Veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health told The State.

It is the first case of mad cow disease identified in South Carolina. According to the USDA, it is the seventh case of mad cow disease ever recorded in the United States. The other six cases documented in the US include one case each in Washington, Texas, California and Florida, and two cases in Alabama.

The USDA began a surveillance program in 1990 to monitor the disease.

The cow was diagnosed with Atypical BSE L-type. It is believed that that type of the disease occurs spontaneously at very low levels in cattle populations, the USDA says.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a progressive neurological disorder, according to the CDC. Once infected, cattle will eventually have trouble getting up and walking and will suffer from an unusual gait and weight loss.

The infection can be transmitted to humans through consumption of tainted beef resulting in a rare and fatal form of the disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

In humans, the initial symptoms of CJD can include:

  • Difficulty walking caused by problems with balance and coordination.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Numbness or pins and needles in different parts of the body.
  • Dizziness.
  • Vision problems, such as double vision.
  • Hallucinations.

Advanced neurological symptoms of all forms of CJD can include:

  • Loss of physical coordination, which can affect a wide range of functions, such as walking, speaking and balance.
  • Muscle twitches and spasms.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Blindness.
  • Swallowing difficulties.
  • Loss of speech.
  • Loss of voluntary movement.
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