What You Need to Know: U.S. BSE Situation

April 24, 2012 10:50 AM

USDA today confirmed that a fourth U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been discovered, this time in a dairy cow from California. Link to USDA statement.

Key points from press briefing from USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford:

  • Animal location: Dairy cow was from central California, but USDA still tracing animal's full history.
    U.S. action: USDA has begun to notify the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as trading partners.
  • Type of BSE: USDA labels it "atypical."
  • Way animal contracted BSE: USDA said it was not believed the animal ate contaminated feed.
  • Animal not slaughtered for food: None of the animal made it into the U.S. food supply.
  • "There is really no concern for alarm here with regards to this animal. Both human health and animal health are protected with regards to this issue," Clifford told reporters at a briefing at USDA headquarters.
  • Should not impact trade: "The impact should not affect exports," Clifford said. "Now, I'm not saying it may or may not, but it should not."


The prior three cases:

February 2006: Alabama. The index case was a deep red, crossbred beef cow estimated to be approximately 10-years-old based on dentition. The animal was initially discovered February 27, 2006, by an Alabama cattle producer. His herd veterinarian initially diagnosed the animal with hypocalcemia (milk fever) and hypomagnesemia (grass tetany). After treatment, the cow displayed tremors of the head and neck and was still unable to rise. On the following day, February 28, the cow remained in lateral recumbency and she was euthanized and the obex removed to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Link to read full report: Alabama BSE Investigation-Final Epidemiology Report

June 2005: Texas. In June 2005, an inconclusive bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) sample from November 2004, that had originally been classified as negative on the immunohistochemistry test, was confirmed positive on SAF immunoblot (Western blot). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified the herd of origin for the index cow in Texas; that identification was confirmed by DNA analysis. USDA, in close cooperation with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), established an incident command post (ICP) and began response activities according to USDA's BSE Response Plan of September 2004. Response personnel removed at-risk cattle and cattle of interest (COI) from the index herd, euthanized them, and tested them for BSE; all were negative. USDA and the State extensively traced all at-risk cattle and COI that left the index herd. The majority of these animals entered rendering and/or slaughter channels well before the investigation began.

Link to read full report: USDA Texas BSE Investigation-Final Epidemiology Report

December 2003: Washington. On December 23, 2003, USDA announced a presumptive positive case of BSE in a Holstein cow slaughtered in the State of Washington. The infected cow entered the United States on September 4, 2001, as part of a shipment of 81 animals from the source herd in Canada. Of these 81 animals, 25 were considered to be higher risk as defined by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE): animals born on a known source premises within 12 months of an affected animal, either before or after. Counting the index animal, USDA accounted for 14 of the 25 animals considered to be higher risk. In total, USDA accounted for 29 of the 81 cattle in the initial shipment, plus 7 additional animals also dispersed from the birth herd. The number of animals found is consistent with the number expected after analysis of regional culling rates. Since the epidemiological investigation was yielding little additional information, USDA concluded active investigation and culling activities on February 9, 2004. A total of 255 cattle were depopulated from 10 premises on which one or more source herd animals were found.

Link to read full report: Washington State Investigation-Final Epidemiology Report

U.S. beef trade impacts

U.S. beef exports suffered a dramatic decline in the wake of the BSE case first discovered in 2003 and in 2011 finally managed to exceed the pre-BSE export mark.

Here is a look at U.S. beef exports from pre-BSE through 2011:

04 24 12 BSE1

Under USDA's BSE ongoing surveillance program,
samples of approximately 40,000 animals each year will be taken. Under the program, USDA will continue to collect samples from a variety of sites and from the cattle populations where the disease is most likely to be detected, similar to the enhanced surveillance program procedures.

Here are the results through March for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012:

04 24 12 BSE2

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