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What is BSE?

BSE is a neurological disorder in cows caused by an infection from a transmissible agent called a prion. The agent damages the central nervous system of the cow. Although humans cannot contract BSE, there is a link between BSE and Creuzfeldt-Jakob’s disease (vCJD). Humans can develop Creuzfeldt-Jakob’s disease by eating infected cow meat.

Strains of BSE

Typical: This is the original strain linked to the BSE outbreaks in the UK and Canada. It is preventable through the elimination of contaminated feed and has been known to cause vCJD in humans. It has not yet been found in US cattle.

Atypical: There are two different atypical strains, H and L. These strains may have risen spontaneously, according to SEAC, and atypical BSE represents sporadic disease.

Prevention of BSE

To prevent BSE in the United States, severe restrictions were placed on importation of live animals and animal products where BSE was known to exist. A ruminant feed ban was enacted in June 1997 to prevent the spread of BSE to both animals and humans (vCJD). The FDA regulates its feed ban through BSE inspections and BSE feed testing programs. The Harvard Center for Risk Assessment confirmed that the ruminant feed rule provides a major defense against BSE. A similar Canadian ruminant feed ban was recently enacted.

For more information on BSE, prevalance of BSE, and Feed Bans, visit http://www.cdc.gov/prions/bse/index.html.