Analysis

Mad cow disease has been spotted in Scotland - that should reassure us all

The identification of an isolated case of BSE in an Aberdeenshire cow has reawakened unpleasant memories, says Alex Matthews-King, but it is a sign that we have not forgotten those lessons

Friday 19 October 2018 01:23
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Agriculture minister John Gummer fed his daughter a beefburger in front of the press, in May 1990, to show there was nothing to fear from mad cow disease
Agriculture minister John Gummer fed his daughter a beefburger in front of the press, in May 1990, to show there was nothing to fear from mad cow disease

The news that a cow in Scotland has been diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as BSE or “mad cow disease”, has reawakened the terrible memories of the 1980s and 90s epidemic .

That outbreak saw 180,000 cattle infected and millions slaughtered, but also introduced the public to the terrifying human cousin of BSE, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

Both conditions are caused by an abnormal group of infectious proteins called prions. BSE is believed to have been passed to cows from infected meat and bone meal in feed, a practice that is now banned. In rare cases, vCJD can take hold in humans who eat beef from infected cattle.

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