Mad Cow Disease Fast Facts

Willie Grace | 6/17/2014, 8:36 p.m. | Updated on 6/17/2014, 8:36 p.m.
Here's a look at what you need to know about Mad Cow Disease, a transmissible fatal brain disease found in ...

Here's a look at what you need to know about Mad Cow Disease, a transmissible fatal brain disease found in cattle.

Facts: It has been linked to a fatal brain disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

The official name of mad cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). BSE lesions are characterized by sponge-like changes seen under an ordinary microscope.

Eating contaminated meat or other products from cattle (excluding dairy products) with BSE is thought to be the cause of vCJD.

BSE is passed between cows through the practice of recycling bovine carcasses for meat and bone meal protein, which is fed back to other cattle.

Both mad cow disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) are fatal.

Symptoms of vCJD involve psychiatric symptoms and behavioral changes, movement deficits, memory disturbances and cognitive impairments.

BSE Statistics (Cattle): (source: CDC) Through April 2012, 23 BSE cases in North America have been confirmed, 19 cases in Canada, and four in the United States. One of the infected cows that died in the United States was born in Canada.

vCJD Statistics (Humans): (source: CDC) 1996-2014 - 228 vCJD cases have been reported in 12 countries: United Kingdom - 176 France - 27 Ireland - 4 United States - 4 Spain - 5 The Netherlands - 3 Portugal - 2 Canada - 2 Italy - 2 Japan - 1 Saudi Arabia - 1 Taiwan - 1

Timeline: 1986 - Mad cow disease is first discovered in the United Kingdom. From 1986 through 2001, a British outbreak affects about 180,000 cattle and devastates farming communities.

January 1993 - The BSE epidemic in Britain reaches its peak with almost 1,000 new cases being reported per week.

1996 - The first case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is reported.

1996-1999 - The European Union bans British beef. France continues the ban for three more years, on the grounds that British beef is not safe.

May 20, 2003 - Canada's first case of mad cow disease is confirmed in an eight-year-old cow in Alberta. Canadian officials say the cow did not enter the food chain.

May 21, 2003 - Mexico, Japan and South Korea join the United States in temporarily banning Canadian beef. The United States lifts the ban in March.

December 23, 2003 - The first case of mad cow disease in the United States is confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The infected cow is discovered on a farm in Washington State in early December. Japan, China and South Korea stop the importation of U.S. beef. The infected cow was born in Alberta, Canada, in April 1997 - just four months before the United States and Canada began banning the use of brain and spinal cord tissue in cattle feed.

December 30, 2003 - The USDA announces that the beef from downer cattle will no longer be allowed in the human food chain.

January 9, 2004 - The USDA says it will begin destroying about 130 cattle that were "herd mates" of the cow that tested positive for the first-ever U.S. case of mad cow disease - to make sure none of those cows enters the human food chain.