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USDA Releases Specifics on Third Mad Cow Case

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released information following their investigation concerning a cow that tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in March 2006. USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, DVM, reported findings of the agency’s epidemiological investigation on May 2, 2006. The animal was a red crossbred beef cow. By examining its teeth, investigators were able to determine that it was more than 10 years old and was born prior to 1997, when the FDA initiated a ban on ruminant-to-ruminant feeding practices (animal remains fed back to other cows) to stem BSE infections. Officials also stated that this particular cow never entered the animal or human food chain.

Clifford reminded the public of the effectiveness of federal safeguards and surveillance. “As part of APHIS’ BSE enhanced surveillance program, more than 700,000 samples have been tested since June 2004. To date, only two of these highest risk animals have tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program, for a total of three cases of BSE in the United States. While APHIS’ epidemiological investigation did not locate additional animals of interest, it is important to remember that human and animal health in the United States are protected by a system of interlocking safeguards, which ensure the safety of U.S. beef.”

BSE infection causes mad cow disease in animals and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans, both resulting in serious neurological symptoms and death. In the majority of vCJD cases, people contracted the disease by eating contaminated beef. The majority of vCJD cases have occurred in the United Kingdom (UK). There is no available treatment for these diseases. Although symptoms are identifiable, there currently is no way to test living animals or humans for these diseases, with post-mortem brain dissection the only mode of identification.

Three reported cases of vCJD transmission via blood transfusion have been reported in the UK--all have been solely connected to transfusions of blood components, not with plasma-derived blood products. In the U.S., no cases have been reported of vCJD transmission through the blood supply. Tests are being developed to detect CJD and vCJD infections in blood and plasma donors. Since 1999 the FDA has had in place donor deferrals of all blood donations from people who lived or visited the UK for three months or more between 1980-1996.

Read Clifford’s complete statement >>

Source: APHIS news release dated May 2, 2006


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