Mad Cow Disease - What to Know - as part of the education series by GeoBeats.
Mad Cow Disease - What is It?
Scientifically named Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, it is a progressive neurological disease that affects a cow's nervous system. Once infected, the cow's behavior becomes erratic - inability to walk, uncontrolled movements and lower milk production. Incubation period can be months, even years. There's no known treatment and the disease is fatal.
How Do Cows Get Infected?
A cow gets infected with the disease if they eat diseased feed which has abnormal proteins called prions found in brains, spinal cords, and other parts. These prions cause the degeneration in brain, giving it a spongy like appearance.
How Can It Affect Us?
Humans don't get mad cow disease as such but they get a variant of it if they eat the diseased cattle tissue. Health officials in the US and elsewhere control such scenarios by periodic sampling and prohibiting cattle parts in feed which may contain prions.
Where Has It Been Reported So Far?
Although United Kingdom has been most impacted by the mad cow disease so far, the BSE has been reported in many countries around the word. Millions of cattle have been slaughtered and nearly 200,000 cows have died. Around 200 humans have lost their lives.
In the US recently, a cow tested positive for the disease but the health officials say that the infected cow wasn't designated for meat consumption and it was an atypical strain of the disease.