Mad Cow Disease is a bigger threat than Bird Flu

Bird Flu continues to grab the headlines, but tucked away, in the corner of the news world, was the next reported case of Mad Cow disease in the U.S. Each BSE case receives the mandated "confidence in U.S. beef safety" from the authorities, but how many cases will it take before people take notice? The beef industry (and the USDA too if this article is true) will do its darndest to keep the lid on news of further cases; if we assume 2 positive cases (Texas last June, and Alabama today) out of 250,000 tests (assume 1,000 tests a day), and a population of 95 million cattle - then there are about 760 positive BSE animals out there, ready to be eaten by you and me! This excludes the number of infectious cattle which are not detectable, either by the nature of the test, prion load of the animal, and/or comformation changes in the prions themselves.

The human form of the disease, CJD, will likely never get the 'high alert' attention bird flu currently receives (and bird flu has yet to get to the human-to-human stage) as CJD is slow to develop and difficult to diagnose. Death from bird flu by 'drowning' in your own fluid filled lungs, is probably a blessing compard to the slow eating away of the brain, and eventual death caused by CJD.

When BSE burst on to the scene in the UK and Ireland it caused widespread fear, travel restrictions, cancellations of major events (Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade was one victim), not to mention severe hardships to livestock farmers (loss of income, family stress, suicide in some instances). BSE hasn't made such a leap in the U.S., yet - but it could do anytime, long before Bird Flu makes the transition to human-to-human spread.

According to Wikipedia; there have been 184,000 cases of BSE and 160 CJD cases in the UK, Ireland ranks second with 1,353 BSE and 2 CJD cases, with France third on 891 BSE and 11 CJD cases. The incidence of CJD will likely rise in these countries as disease incubations play out. On paper, the BSE related deaths will pall in magnitude compared to eventual deaths caused by a Flu pandemic - but the damage BSE could do the economy could be far greater.

Fear is a far greater motivating factor than Fact.

P.S. Don't look to this Administration to give you the heads up, or help when the fan is hit by the proverbial. Brownie to the rescue....

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