US health officials discovered an atypical case of mad cow disease in a cow at a South Carolina slaughterhouse, they announced Friday.
The US Department of Agriculture said – in a statement – that the cow in question “never entered the skinning channels, and did not pose a threat to the food supply or human health in the United States.”
She added that the United States had a “low risk situation” for mad cow disease and that she did not expect any commercial impacts as a result of the discovery.
What is mad cow disease?
Mad cow disease, whose scientific name is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a neurological disorder that affects cattle and is caused by infection with a so-called “factor” known as “prion”. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This “factor” is believed to be a modified form of a naturally occurring protein known as the prion protein. For reasons not yet understood, the normal prion protein changes into a harmful form that then damages the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of cattle.
When transmitted to humans through eating contaminated meat, mad cow disease can cause malady Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) fatal.
The atypical variant
This atypical variant sporadically infects older cows, while the classic form of the disease spreads when farmers feed their herds the meat and bones of infected animals.
The classic form of mad cow disease poses a greater threat to humans.
This is the seventh time that this disease has been discovered in the United States during the past twenty years, and all but one were atypical, according to officials.