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General News

Mad Cow Fears Are Back -- As Are Chronic Wasting Disease

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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It's been two years since rumors of mad cows in Texas sank cattle futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange when a woman with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), human mad cow disease, was admitted to an Amarillo hospital.

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"The rumor was started, and it's totally unfounded, that there were cattle with BSE in Texas," Ted McCollum, beef cattle specialist with the Amarillo office of Texas AgriLife Extension, told the press.

Of course it's easy to see how the rumor got started that there were cattle with BSE in Texas since there were cattle with BSE in Texas.

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In 2005, the first "home grown" mad cow was found on a Texas ranch whose identity authorities protected. A 12-year-old beef cow used for breeding, she was sent to Champion Pet Food in Waco when she became a downer. The ranch was quarantined while authorities searched for the animal's offspring and older animals.

Now there are two "mysterious" cases of CJD in McLennan county, Texas says the Waco Tribune-Herald --"a statistical anomaly considering that only one in 1 million people worldwide is affected by the condition in any given year."

The statistical abnormality is also visible on the Texas Department of State Health Services map on its web site. There have been 144 cases of CJD in Texas since 2000 and 44 of them appear in clusters. If CJD is caused for unknown reasons (sporadic) or is familial, it would not come in clusters.

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It has been years since the San Francisco Chronicle reported that 11 restaurants in nine California counties served meat from the first US mad cow, imported from Canada in 2003. A subsequent audit of US slaughterhouses to win back Asian exports which were lost over the cow, found 29 more downers slipped into the food supply because some inspectors "did not believe that they had the authority" to go into their pens. But then Secretary Johanns assured the press the cattle were healthy when they arrived at the slaughterhouse but became suddenly unable to walk for one reason or another.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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