MAD cow disease – also known as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – ravaged Britain’s cattle herds in the 1990s when millions of livestock were slaughtered. The killer disease spread to humans from infected beef, sparking widespread panic. And a new outbreak in Scotland shows it has not been eradicated. What is mad cow disease and what does BSE stand for? Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal degenerative brain disease in cattle, similar to scrapie in sheep. It attacks the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – causing infected animals to lose muscle control. They become unsteady on their feet and also become aggressive, nervous or frenzied – leading to the name “mad cow disease”. The exact cause is unknown but it is believed to be spread by prions, abnormally folded proteins which accumulate in the brain and kill nerve cells. There was a major outbreak in the UK beginning in the late 1980s. Ministers banned the practice of feeding cattle with bonemeal from other cows – the likely cause of the outbreak. But the epidemic continued and peaked in the early 1990s when around 1,000 new cases a week were being recorded. Officially around 180,000 cows… Read full this story
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