What is Mad Cow Disease? According to the CDC Mad Cow Disease is a progressive neurologic disorder which effects the brain and spinal cord of cattle, and humans. Many other animals can get their own version of Mad Cow disease some of the animals are mink, deer, elk, cats, sheep, and goats. Mad Cow Disease is also called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE. BSE was nicknamed Mad Cow disease by the way the animals acted when they were infected. BSE damaged brain tissue is sponge-looking under an ordinary microscope. BSE is caused by an unusual transmittable agent called a prion. (CDC.gov) Prions cause BSE when eaten. BSE or Mad Cow Disease is closely related to the fatal brain disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease (vCJD). (cnn.com) In 1986 Mad Cow Disease was found in Britain, cattle are suffering from conditions similar to scrapie in sheep. Scrapie is a similar disease to BSE it effects the nervous system in sheep and goats, and once an animal is infected with scrapie the animal remains infected for the rest of its life. The cause is unknown, but many are suspecting the feeding of scrapie- infected sheep to cattle in the form of protein. In January of 1993 the Britain Epidemic reaches its peak of almost 1,000 new cases being reported per week. In December of 2003 there is a cow that tested positive for BSE in Washington. By 2004 the Britain epidemic had affected 180,000 cattle, and was over. Sadly, there was been 143 people infected with vCJD in Britain. From 2004 to 2012 there had been three animals in the USA that had been affected with BSE. In 2012 USDA establishes a rule requiring livestock to be tagged for traceability of Mad Cow Disease when they cross over state borders. Cattle under 18 months are the only livestock exempt from this rule. Most animals with scrapie die when effected. Animals with BSE animals can take anywhere from two weeks to six months for an animal to die. What are the causes of Mad Cow Disease? BSE or Mad Cow Disease is caused by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy belongs to part of a group of related diseases known as “transmissible spongiform encephalopathy” (TSEs), or brain- wasting diseases. This group includes scrapie in sheep and goat, Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease in humans, and Feline Spongiform encephalopathy in cats. TSE is caused by a protein that is folded in an unusual shape called a prion. Prion cause healthy proteins to fold incorrectly, as the good proteins fold themselves into prions they leave behind empty holes, and useless debris, which turns the brain into a sponge. There is no real way of telling how an animal got BSE or Scrapie but it is suspected that the feeding of scrapie and BSE affected animal proteins to healthy animals cause the disease. There are two different strands of BSE/Scrapie, classical and atypical. Classical is caused by Scrapie/ BSE infected animal fed to animals. Atypical usually happens in animals eight years and older but it is very rare, and when the healthy proteins start folding themselves into prions but not being infected by another animal. Scientist couldn’t find the organism that causes Scrapie, that’s because it isn’t a bacteria, virus, or parasite. That being that it is not an organism it doesn’t provoke the body to fight it. The body of a sick cow doesn’t know that it has abnormal prions infecting the body, not knowing that the prions are there, the body can’t fight off the disease. BSE has an incubation period of two to eight years, so an animal can have it since it was a calf and the animal will die at some point, with no apparent reason for death. Scrapie has an incubation period of two to five years. vCJD has an incubation period of 10 years. What are the symptoms of Mad Cow disease? According to the FDA symptoms for Mad Cow Disease are uncoordinated movements, act nervous or violent. A sick cow might have trouble getting up or walking, a cow is not acting like its normal self. An animal may “stargaze” or looking into space and not paying attention, or have weight lose with no decreasing appetite. Most all of TSE diseases have the same clinical signs so if an animal has Scrapie, BSE, or a human has vCJD they will all have some of the same signs. According to the USDA, if an animal has Scrapie it will be nervousness, aggression, intense rubbing, and very uncoordinated moving around. Some other signs for Scrapie are tremors in the head or neck, “stargazing”, significate weight lose without decrease in appetite, wool pulling, and pica eating substances not normally eaten. According to Mayo Clinic if someone had vCJD they will experience the following symptoms, personality change, anxiety, depression, memory loss, impaired thinking, blurred vision or blindness, insomnia, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, and sudden, jerky movements. What is the treatment for Mad Cow Disease? According to FDA, there is no treatment for BSE or a vaccine to prevent it. Once an animal gets any TSE disease, there is no treatment, because of such a long incubation period you will not know an animal has it tell they start showing symptoms. After symptoms are show an animal has normally has one to six months to live. The only real way to tell is an animal has BSE is to examine the brain after death. According to the center for food safty, there is no test on live cattle to determine if they have BSE or Scraie. If an animal is suspected for BSE they are normally euthanized to do testing on. According to USDA there is no treatment for Scrapie, and it also falls under TSE and can’t be diagnosed tell the animal is dead and the brain can be examined. According to the Mayo Clinic there is no treatment or vaccine for vCJD and they focus on making the patient with this disease to be as comfortable as possible. For the lack of treatment for TSE diseases the USDA and the FDA have worked on preventing and protecting humans and animals from the diseases, because humans can get vCJD from eating BSE effected meat from the central nervous system. Some of the effected tissue is the brain and spinal cord tissue. Cooking and other forms of disinfectant doesn’t destroy the prion. For this reason, the USDA requires all of the brain and spinal cord tissue to be removed from older cattle, cattle at higher risk, cattle who can’t walk at time of death and animals that show signs of neurological disorder. The FDA doesn’t allow most parts from cattle and certain other animals to go into other animal feed, feed that will be feed into healthy cattle and other animals that can get other strains of BSE, Scrapie, and other TSE disease.