Prion Disease: US Culls Live Imports
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Foot-and-mouth disease in humans:400 known cases
Canada's secret campaign on imported sheep
CWD in wild mule deer in Saskatchewan: hunting industry faces devastation
Twenty-one Texas cattle to be killed and tested for mad cow disease
BSE cases by year of birth
US officials: feed mills still breaking mad cow rules
Vermont: did the sheep really have a TSE?
Can scrapie cause old-fashioned CJD?
Pet food makers making few changes
Did mad cow precautions spread foot-and-mouth
Vox populi

Human health implications of foot and mouth disease

Wed, 4 Apr 2001 review of medical literature by Michael Greger, MD
Foot and mouth disease is a zoonosis (meaning that it is disease of animals that may be transmitted to man under natural conditions). (1) Of this, there is no doubt. (2) Probable cases go back over 300 years. There are some 400 reports of alleged foot and mouth disease in human beings across several continents. (3)

Those at highest risk are young children -- found to develop clinical infection more readily than adults--and those in certain occupational groups such as veterinarians, farm workers and their families, butchers, lab workers and livestock auctioneers. The presence of minor breaks in the skin, such as dermatitis, or "Even manicure procedures may cause sufficient abrasion to facilitate infection." (4)

There are several ways people can contract the virus. These include the handling of animals and inhalation of airborne viral particles, but probably the most frequent routes of infection has been ingestion.

Historically, for example, multiple outbreaks among schoolchildren were attributed to unpasteurized milk. High titers of virus are shed into cow's milk--as many as thousands of human infectious doses per drop. While the virus does not survive pasteurization, there have been cases of human infection attributed to cheese and other dairy products (5) which are often made from raw unpasteurized milk. (6)

Most strains of foot and mouth disease virus are susceptible to acidic environments, however, so acidified products such as yogurt are "probably safe." (7)

Human infections are usually, but not always, of a mild nature. (8) After an incubation period of 2-4 days, sufferers start experiencing symptoms such as fever, headaches, shivering and thirst. Later, itchiness, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and, rarely, gastro-enteritis precede the appearance of crops of painful blisters on the sufferer's hands and between their toes. (9)

In the case of the man who contracted foot and mouth disease during the last outbreak in Britain, the blisters on the palms of hands were up to almost an inch in diameter. (10)

Blisters can also form on the lips and inside the mouth, causing extensive ulceration and marked discomfort. Desquamation (skin peeling) of the palms and soles of feet is also known to occur.

In one case it was described that the "Skin of [the] soles peeled off like sandals, in one piece." (11) Recovery is usually complete within 2 weeks, although there was one case reported of someone developing a serious heart infection. Reports of deaths, however, have not been verified. (12)

Human volunteers experimentally infected with foot and mouth disease virus were found to be able to pass the virus along by coughing, sneezing, talking and breathing. (13) It is unknown whether the virus is excreted in human urine or feces. (14)

Although it must be concluded that the transfer of the foot and mouth disease virus between animals and man occurs more frequently than was suspected in the past, clinical disease occurs infrequently considering the extent of human exposure. (15)

Under-reporting is assumed, since the disease may be so mild that sufferers might not seek medical attention (16) and systemic searches for the disease haven't been advised out of fear that "They would create misunderstandings, and possibly even panic..." (17)

(1) Prempeh H, Smith R and B Müller. "Foot and mouth disease: the
human consequences." British Medical Journal 10 March 2001:565-6.

(2) Bauer K. "Foot-and-Mouth Disease as Zoonosis." Archives of
Virology Supplemental 13(1997):95-7.

(3) Hyslop NSG. "Transmission of the Virus of Foot and Mouth Disease
Between Animals and Man." Bulletin of the World Health Organization

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) McDowell, RM and MD McElvaine. "Long-Term Sequelae To Foodborne
Disease." Office of Risk Assessment and Animal and Plant Health
inspection Cost-Benefit Analysis. United States Department of

(7) Hyslop NSG. "Transmission of the Virus of Foot and Mouth Disease
Between Animals and Man." Bulletin of the World Health Organization

(8) Hyslop NSG. "The Epizootiology and Epidemiology of Foot and Mouth
Disease." Advances in Veterinary Science and Comparative Medicine

(9) Hyslop NSG. "Transmission of the Virus of Foot and Mouth Disease
Between Animals and Man." Bulletin of the World Health Organization

(11) Dlugosz H. "Foot and Mouth Disease in Man." British Medical
Journal 27 January 1967:251-2.

(12) Hyslop NSG. "Transmission of the Virus of Foot and Mouth Disease
Between Animals and Man." Bulletin of the World Health Organization

(13) Sellers RF, Donaldson AI and KAJ Herniman. "Inhalation,
Persistence and Dispersal of Foot and Mouth Disease Virus by Man."
Journal of Hygeine 68(1970):565-73.

(14) Smyth DH. "Foot and Mouth Disease in Man." British Medical
Journal 2 December 1967:503.

(15) Hyslop NSG. "Transmission of the Virus of Foot and Mouth Disease
Between Animals and Man." Bulletin of the World Health Organization

(16) Dlugosz H. "Foot and Mouth Disease in Man." British Medical
Journal 27 January 1967:251-2.

(17) "Foot and Mouth Disease in Man." Lancet 6 May 1967:994.

Foot-and-mouth disease in humans: troubling case report

Monday March 26 By Richard Woodman Reuters Health
Although rare, foot-and-mouth disease can infect humans, according to an old copy of the British Medical Journal that records how a 35-year-old man caught foot-and-mouth disease in 1966. The journal report was dug out of the archives on Monday as the current animal epidemic continued to spread remorselessly across the countryside. [Armstrong R et al. Foot-and-mouth disease in man. BMJ 1967; 4: 529-530 -- webmaster]

The disease afflicts cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows, causing sores and severe weight loss. In general, the disease poses no risk to humans. Britain now has more than 650 confirmed outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and the virus has spread to France, the Netherlands and Ireland. No cases of human infection have been reported, but the BMJ case shows the possibility cannot be ruled out. The report says the patient became ill in July 1966--six days after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth developed on the farm where he lived with his brother in Northumberland.

The man --now known to have been Mr. Bobby Brewis -- watched but took no part in the slaughter of the farm's animals on 24 July 1966. However one of the affected animals was a cow that supplied milk used in the farmhouse.

"On 28th July he complained of a sore throat, which became worse on the 29th. On the 30th he had a temperature of 99 F (37.2 C), an inflamed throat, and a few blisters on the palms and dorsa of both hands.

"On 31st July his temperature was normal but the blisters on his hands had increased in number. There were two further blisters between his toes and five or six wheals on the side and front of his tongue.

"The patient described his lesions as uncomfortable and tingling, while the tongue was hot, tingling and sore." The blisters disappeared after several weeks only for a fresh set to develop a week later, and again after five months.

Mr. Brewis's daughter, Amanda, told The Times of London on Monday that her father's illness had mystified the medical profession. "He always knew he was a quirk of British medical history. In a way he was proud of it. He was a bit of a teaser and a prankster. He used to joke about how he must really be an animal." Mr. Brewis, who died six years ago, was living at his farm in the hamlet of Yetlington on the edge of the Cheviot Hills during the 1966 outbreak. The Department of Health made no immediate comment on the rare case.

Americans mixed up about livestock diseases

March 27, 2001By PHILIP BRASHER, Associated Press 
Americans are confusing foot-and-mouth disease, which is harmless to people, with rarer mad cow disease, which has been linked to several deaths in Europe, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Tuesday. However, she said there is no evidence that the confusion has caused U.S. consumers to shun meat. "They're hearing animal disease and they don't know the difference," Veneman said. "We're trying to make sure that people understand that there is a difference."

Foot-and-mouth is primarily an economic issue. An outbreak virtually shuts down a country's meat exports, and the virus spreads so quickly that the only sure way to contain it is to destroy all exposed livestock...

Foot-and-Mouth Disease No Threat to Human Health

29 March 01 CBS HealthWatch By Erin R. King
It might sound scary, and but foot-and-mouth disease is not a threat to humans, according to agriculture experts. The disease, also known as hoof-and-mouth disease, has so far been detected in nearly 30 countries around the world (but not in North America). It usually doesn't kill animals, but it can cause them to become ill (it is not known to cause illness in humans)....

British prime minister postpones decision on vaccinating dairy cattle

39 Mar 01 By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
... Blair appealed to U.S. tourists Thursday not to cancel vacations to Britain. "We love American visitors coming over here," Blair told NBC news. "Any tourist attraction, virtually, that anyone in the United States will have heard of and wants to come and see, is open. There's not a single town, city or village, that people can't go into."

Foot-and-mouth is harmless to humans and does not normally kill animals, but it devastates trade because many countries ban meat imports from infected nations.

Foot-and-mouth seems to be improving

April 4, 2001  By BETH GARDINER, Associated Press
Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Wednesday there have been signs of progress in stemming the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, making it less likely Britain will resort to a controversial vaccination program. As the number of infected sites passed 1,000, Britain's chief scientist told Blair that the widespread slaughter of livestock was "starting to bite" into the disease, heading off worst-case projections and lessening the need for export-damaging vaccinations, said the spokesman, who declined to be named. ...

Humans cannot catch foot-and-mouth and it is not normally fatal to livestock. But because it lowers production and is highly contagious, many countries shut their doors to animal products from infected nations....

Comment (webmaster): Here again we see an ever-obedient press serving up pig swill for public consumption: humans cannot get foot-and-mouth disease; alternately, transmission is rare and symptoms are mild. And yet the disease sounds rather unpleasant. Would serious long-term health problems occur in a large exposed population in people having compromised immune systems? What about pregnant women? Do humans get undetected mycocardium damage like pigs (tiger heart)? It seems that losses in British tourism are deemed more critical than the health of (expendable) foreign visitors.

As with BSE, governments wants to bury human health concerns under a tall stack of short-lived reassurances. The press cannot be bothered with 30 seconds of fact-checking at Medline. The review article below again paints a rather different picture of the rarity of transmission:

Foot- and-mouth disease as zoonosis.

Arch Virol Suppl 1997;13:95-7 by Bauer K
Man's susceptibility to the virus of foot- and-mouth disease (FMD) was debated for many years. Today the virus has been isolated and typed (type O, followed by type C and rarely A) in more than 40 human cases. So no doubt remains that FMD is a zoonosis. Considering the high incidence of the disease (in animals) in the past and in some areas up to date, occurrence in man is quite rare.

In the past when FMD was endemic in Central Europe many cases of diseases in man showing vesicles in the mouth or on the hands and feet were called FMD. The first suggestion of a human infection with FMD was reported in 1695 by Valentini in Germany]. All reports before 1897, the year of the discovery of the virus of FMD by Loeffler and Frosch, were not of course confirmed either by isolation of the virus or by identification of immunoglobulins after infection. Nevertheless the successful self-infection reported by Hertwig in 1834 most likely seems to have been FMD in man: each of three veterinarians drank 250 ml of milk from infected cows on four consecutive days. The three men developed clinical manifestations.

Beginning in 1921 up to 1969 at least 38 papers were published, which described clinically manifest FMD in man in more than 40 proven cases. One further reported described an asymptomatic infection with FMD in man. Criteria for establishing a diagnosis of FMD in man are the isolation of the virus from the patient and/or identification of specific antibodies after infection. Laboratory tests for diagnosis of human FMD are the same as for animals. Proven cases of FMD in man have occurred in several countries in Europe, Africa and South America. The type of virus most frequently isolated man is type O followed by type C and rarely A. The incubation period in man, although somewhat variable, has not been found to be less than two days and rarely more than six days.

It is interesting to note that suspected and confirmed human cases must have no contact with susceptible livestock to avoid transmitting the disease, though person to person spread has not been reported.

Dutch prepare for mass slaughter of cattle

March 30, 2001 CNN
The Dutch Government is preparing to slaughter up to 100,000 animals in an effort to contain the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. Three new cases of the virus were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the total in the Netherlands to 10. Prime Minister Wim Kok described the outbreak as a "national disaster."

...One of the three newly-infected farms in the Netherlands, at Kootwijkerbroek, was some distance from the other nine cases -- indicating the disease was no longer confined to a single tight cluster.

"We are very worried about the Kootwijkerbroek case because we haven't been able to trace the cause," said Dutch Agriculture Ministry spokesman Gabor Oolthuis.

The Dutch Government has acted swiftly to contain the disease. It has been granted permission by the European Union veterinary committee to vaccinate its cloven-hoofed livestock in an emergency measure to help create a firewall against the disease. It has nonetheless come in for criticism from Dutch farmers, who have accused ministers of not keeping pace with the disease.

"Almost every day another village is infected," said Dirk Duijzer, director general of the main farmers' organisation. "Almost every day the minister says he still has it under control. I suppose that's right but meanwhile foot-and-mouth continues to spread."

Ireland has reported two additional suspected cases of the disease, one of them a distance from the only existing outbreak so far. One of the two suspect cases is on a farm within the 10 kilometre (seven mile) exclusion zone surrounding the republic's only confirmed case in County Louth, on the north eastern border. The other is in the south east of the country in County Wexford. Samples from sheep at an abattoir and meat-processing plant were flown to Britain for testing after some animals displayed the symptoms....

Russia banned imports of animals, meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, fish and their products and animal feed from the EU, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states on the Baltic. "In view of the strong measures taken by the European Union to curb the spread of the disease, the decision by the Russian authorities appears excessive and disproportionate," said a statement issued by the delegation of the European Commission in Russia....

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told CNN International television: "If you look at some of the pictures that have been on the television you see some of the burning animals and so forth you might think that the whole countryside is like this. "Less than one percent of the livestock of the country has been affected. It's very much located in particular areas where the main problems are. And we're slaughtering it out, because that is the best way to do it in order to preserve our export status, and our foot and mouth-disease-free status for the future as a country.

"There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't come, if you're an American tourist come and visit the UK and visit as you always have, and you'll find the things that you want to do are still there for you to do..."

Canada feared mad cow outbreak

March 25, 2001 The Ottawa Citizen By Mark Kennedy
Canada quietly ordered the destruction last year of sheep imported from Denmark in the early 1990s because they were suspected of being infected with mad cow disease through contaminated feed, the Citizen has learned. Documents obtained through the Access to Information Act reveal that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took the action as a precaution to prevent the fatal brain-wasting disease from jumping the species barrier and spreading to other animals and to humans.

Agency officials now say none of the animals tracked down and destroyed was diagnosed as having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. [This means little if testing protocol is not disclosed. An archaic method such as histopathology might have been chosen -- webmaster]

But that doesn't offer a total guarantee. Only 22 were found of the 111 imported in the early 1990s, killed and tested in last year's trace. Of the remainder: 38 had already died or were slaughtered; 26 were unaccounted for; 24 had been exported to the United States, and the owner of one sheep is still refusing to give up his animal to be destroyed. [And what has become of offspring of these sheep? Note that US first acquired scrapie in 1947 via Canadian imports. -- webmaster]

A "risk assessment" report prepared by the agency last September drew some stark conclusions. It found there was a "low" risk that the sheep, imported in four separate shipments in 1992 and 1994, were infected with BSE upon arrival from Denmark.

Furthermore, the report said the risk was "low to moderate" that some of the sheep, once they died, were sent to Canadian rendering plants where their remains were boiled and turned into sawdust-like, protein-rich products to be added to animal feeds. If so, this would create a route through which BSE could be spread to other Canadian livestock.

"The consequences of the identification of a case of BSE in native animals in Canada are likely to be VERY HIGH," the report warned. "In addition, the political consequences resulting from the fact that, on paper, Canada has imported ruminants from a BSE affected country can also be considered to be HIGH."

There is now strong scientific proof that animals with BSE can transmit a similar strain of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) to humans. So far, nearly 100 people in Britain and Europe have been infected with the fatal brain disorder.

The food inspection agency ordered the sheep destroyed once it learned in February 2000 that Denmark had just experienced its first case of a native-born animal (a three-year-old dairy cow) diagnosed with BSE.

An internal CFIA e-mail, sent to the agency's district offices in September after a traceback of the imported animals had occurred, left no room for staff to exercise discretion about whether to let the sheep live. "These sheep are being ordered destroyed because they are suspected of being affected or contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)," said the e-mail.

Canada's decision to close the borders to more Danish meat imports and destroy those animals already here was a rare event. Indeed, it was only the second time this country has taken such drastic action in connection with mad cow disease. The first occurred in 1993, when a cow previously imported to Canada from Britain developed BSE. It, and the herd in which it resided, was killed.

However, the food inspection agency did not issue a news release last year to inform the public of its action on the imported sheep. Instead, it rounded up as many of the sheep as it could find, paid the owners up to $600 for each animal, destroyed them and sent their brain samples to the agency's lab in Ottawa for analysis.

Dr. Claude Lavigne, director of the agency's animal health and production division, said in an interview there's nothing unusual about the measure not being publicly announced. "It was considered as something that was routine. There are lots of things that we do every day here that we can't issue a press release every time we do something." [What else have they failed to announce??? -- webmaster]

But questions still remain about why the agency, which has been accused by critics of being overly secretive and too close to industry, didn't announce its measures. Mr. Lavigne denied suggestions it could be the agency feared -- as its own risk assessment report appeared to suggest -- the "political consequences."

He said the use of that phrase was "unfortunate" and that a better choice of words probably would have been "trade consequences." "Some countries that we export to scrutinize our programs here. They ask us for all kinds of information. They send us questionnaires and we answer these questions as openly as we can. Some countries may have taken the negative thing, that we imported ruminants from BSE infected countries."

"To me, these are trade consequences," said Mr. Lavigne. "These risk-assessing people are scientists and sometimes they don't measure the weight of some of their words." Mr. Lavigne stressed that there have been no cases of BSE found in Canadian livestock since the 1993 incident involving the U.K.-imported cow.

Still, the risk assessment report contains some troubling findings:

- There has never been a documented case of a sheep "naturally" contracting BSE in an environment such as a farm. However, it has been scientifically proven in laboratories, where sheep are deliberately infected with the BSE agent, that the disease can jump the species barrier between cows and sheep.

- There was a "likelihood" that the sheep imported to Canada had been fed protein-enriched feeds in Denmark containing the rendered remains of other ruminant animals, such as cows. It was this practice of recycling the remains of dead animals that is now blamed for the spread of mad cow disease in Britain and Europe.

- After the sheep arrived in Canada, there is no way of knowing if any of them were also sent to Canadian rendering plants once they died. In 1997, Canada placed a ban on the use of rendered remains from ruminants, such as cows and sheep, for animal feed. But by then, the imported animals would have ranged in age from four to nine years. The industry had put a voluntary ban in place in 1991 on using sheep offal or carcasses for rendered products, but the report said "we have no information on compliance with the ban."

Usually, sheep are more closely linked to another disease, called scrapie, which is a strain of a collection of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Unlike mad cow disease, or BSE, there is no evidence yet that scrapie is transmissible to humans. Still, governments don't take a chance it will spread to other sheep, or that it could cross the species barrier. Last week, it was revealed 1,200 sheep have been destroyed on southern Manitoba farms in the past several months as a precaution against scrapie.

All the while, the bigger threat remains BSE. It is believed that the nearly 100 people with the human form, nvCJD, caught it by eating contaminated beef or beef byproducts. For years, it was thought Britain would be the hardest hit. But within the past few months, other countries in Europe have experienced their first cases of BSE, which has an incubation period, it is believed, of four to seven years.

Health experts are now waiting for humans in those countries to begin showing symptoms of nvCJD. Scientists believe it takes 10 to 20 years, perhaps even longer, for that disease to incubate in people.

As well, the World Health Organization is warning countries that the disease might one day become a global epidemic. That's because Britain exported its contaminated bovine meat and bone meal until 1996 to Europe, and the products were either re-exported directly, or repacked and sent abroad to as many as 80 countries. Canada says it did not import any of those beef products from Britain, although critics point to U.K. export data that, though imprecise, raise questions on the issue.

Can scrapie cause old-fashioned CJD?

28 March 2001 Debora MacKenzie
What if you can catch old-fashioned CJD by eating meat from a sheep infected with scrapie?

Four years ago, Terry Singeltary watched his mother die horribly from a degenerative brain disease. Doctors told him it was Alzheimer's, but Singeltary was suspicious. The diagnosis didn't fit her violent symptoms, and he demanded an autopsy. It showed she had died of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Most doctors believe that sCJD is caused by a prion protein deforming by chance into a killer. But Singeltary thinks otherwise. He is one of a number of campaigners who say that some sCJD, like the variant CJD related to BSE, is caused by eating meat from infected animals. Their suspicions have focused on sheep carrying scrapie, a BSE-like disease that is widespread in flocks across Europe and North America.

Now scientists in France have stumbled across new evidence that adds weight to the campaigners' fears. To their complete surprise, the researchers found that one strain of scrapie causes the same brain damage in mice as sCJD.

"This means we cannot rule out that at least some sCJD may be caused by some strains of scrapie," says team member Jean-Philippe Deslys of the French Atomic Energy Commission's medical research laboratory in Fontenay-aux-Roses, south-west of Paris.

Hans Kretschmar of the University of Göttingen, who coordinates CJD surveillance in Germany, is so concerned by the findings that he now wants to trawl back through past sCJD cases to see if any might have been caused by eating infected mutton or lamb.

Scrapie has been around for centuries and until now there has been no evidence that it poses a risk to human health. But if the French finding means that scrapie can cause sCJD in people, countries around the world may have overlooked a CJD crisis to rival that caused by BSE.

Deslys and colleagues were originally studying nvCJD, not sCJD. They injected the brains of macaque monkeys with brain from BSE cattle, and from French and British nvCJD patients. The brain damage and clinical symptoms in the monkeys were the same for all three. Mice injected with the original sets of brain tissue or with infected monkey brain also developed the same symptoms.

As a control experiment, the team also injected mice with brain tissue from people and animals with other prion diseases: a French case of sCJD; a French patient who caught sCJD from human-derived growth hormone; sheep with a French strain of scrapie; and mice carrying a prion derived from an American scrapie strain.

As expected, they all affected the brain in a different way from BSE and nvCJD. But while the American strain of scrapie caused different damage from sCJD, the French strain produced exactly the same pathology.

"The main evidence that scrapie does not affect humans has been epidemiology," says Moira Bruce of the neuropathogenesis unit of the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh, who was a member of the same team as Deslys.

"You see about the same incidence of the disease everywhere, whether or not there are many sheep, and in countries such as New Zealand with no scrapie," she says. In the only previous comparisons of sCJD and scrapie in mice, Bruce found they were dissimilar. [This is the usual British garbage, directed in this instance at protecting their sheep industry. Moira Bruce knows perfectly well that she failed to survey the known spectrum of scrapie strains. Misdiagnosis and under-reporting are widespread in CJD -- its scertainment differs widely by country; New Zealand has never reported Prionics testing despite hosting high susceptibility sheep genotypes. -- webmaster]

But there are more than 20 strains of scrapie, and six of sCJD. "You would not necessarily see a relationship between the two with epidemiology if only some strains affect only some people," says Deslys. Bruce is cautious about the mouse results, but agrees they require further investigation. Other trials of scrapie and sCJD in mice, she says, are in progress.

People can have three different genetic variations of the human prion protein, and each type of protein can fold up two different ways. Kretschmar has found that these six combinations correspond to six clinical types of sCJD: each type of normal prion produces a particular pathology when it spontaneously deforms to produce sCJD.

But if these proteins deform because of infection with a disease-causing prion, the relationship between pathology and prion type should be different, as it is in nvCJD. "If we look at brain samples from sporadic CJD cases and find some that do not fit the pattern," says Kretschmar, "that could mean they were caused by infection."

There are 250 deaths per year from sCJD in the US, and a similar incidence elsewhere. Singeltary and other US activists think that some of these people died after eating contaminated meat or "nutritional" pills containing dried animal brain. Governments will have a hard time facing activists like Singeltary if it turns out that some sCJD isn't as spontaneous as doctors have insisted.

Deslys's work on macaques also provides further proof that the human disease nvCJD is caused by BSE. And the experiments showed that nvCJD is much more virulent to primates than BSE, even when injected into the bloodstream rather than the brain. This, says Deslys, means that there is an even bigger risk than we thought that nvCJD can be passed from one patient to another through contaminated blood transfusions and surgical instruments.

Twenty-one Texas cattle to be killed and tested for mad cow disease

March 28, 2001 Associated Press. See also related story collection
Cattle imported Germany will be destroyed and tested to see if they were exposed to mad cow disease before leaving Europe in 1996 and 1997, Texas state officials said. The 21 animals will be gathered from five ranches around the state and taken to College Station to be killed. Samples of the animals' brain tissue will be sent to a national laboratory in Ames, Iowa, Animal Health Commission officials said Wednesday. The animals' remains will be incinerated.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has never been detected in U.S. cattle, but has infected herds in Europe since the mid-1980s. The disease has been blamed about 100 human deaths in England. The disease attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Texas officials described the decision to destroy the cattle imported from Germany as a precaution because of public concern over mad cow disease. The cattle were part of 29 imported from Germany before a 1997 U.S. ban on European livestock. All had been under quarantine since March 1997, after health officials traced them to their current owners.

The owners, who were not identified, had declined to sell the animals $2,000 per head compensation offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They waited until the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Texas Beef Council and the Texas Cattlefeeders Association raised an additional $57,000 for compensation.

None of the imported cattle have shown signs of the disease, said Carla Everett, a spokeswoman for the Animal Health Commission. Four of the original German animals were killed and tested for mad cow disease, and none were found to be infected, Everett said. Two others were slaughtered before the ban on European cattle, one died in 1997 and another in January, and none had symptoms of mad cow, she said.

Offspring of the cattle have been sold without restrictions because state veterinarians don't believe the calves pose a risk if the cow showed no symptoms of the disease, Everett said.

Texas cattle face euthanasia over Mad Cow concerns

Associated Press/Houston Chronicle--Sunday 25 March 2001
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says at least 21 cattle held under quarantine in Texas will soon be euthanized as part of a plan to ease concerns that some might be infected with Mad Cow disease. The cows, imported four years ago from Germany for breeding, were isolated when the outbreak of Mad Cow disease erupted in Europe, officials said. Originally, 29 cows were shipped to Texas, and USDA officials said none of those that died had the disease.

At the time when the cattle arrived in Texas four years ago, eight were imported to Colorado and one to California. They were destroyed and tested. All had negative results for BSE. The cattle are owned by several people in Texas, but officials would not specify where in the state.

Within the next few weeks, the rest will no longer be a concern, an official with the Texas Animal Health Commission said. "They will be euthanized, there is no question of that," agency spokeswoman Carla Everett told the Bryan-College Station Eagle. "The only question is when. It will be this spring." Many of the cattle brought to Texas are exotic and expensive, she said, and owners did not want to sell them for the $2,000-a-head price offered by the USDA. Because the cattle showed no symptoms of illness, they were not seized.

Subsequently, the National Cattlemans Beef Association has raised funds to meet fair market value, which was determined by a professional appraiser. "They have raised somewhere around $57,000, so between that and the $2,000 each, the deal (to destroy the cattle) is nearly done," Everett said. Brain tissue from each animal will be sent for testing to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The quarantined animals were allowed to mingle with other cattle, said Hallie Pickhardt, a spokeswoman with the USDA. "Even if they tested positive, there is no danger of them spreading the disease just by standing next to another cow," she said. "The only way this disease can be spread is by eating contaminated feed."

A poll released yesterday shows that almost two-thirds of Americans say they're concerned that Mad Cow disease could become a problem in the United States -- a number that appears to be growing.

Poll: Mad Cow Concern Rising

Friday March 23,2001 AP
Almost two-thirds of Americans say they're concerned that mad cow disease could become a problem in the United States - a number that appears to be growing, says a poll released Friday. About three in 10, or 29 percent, were very concerned and about four in 10, some 36 percent, were somewhat concerned, according to the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. A fourth, 24 percent, were not too concerned and only about one in 10, or 11 percent, were not concerned at all.

The poll was taken March 9-11 after the first reports of sheep in Vermont that might have been exposed to a form of mad cow disease and reports of concerns about tainted cow feed. But the poll was taken before widespread coverage of the slaughter of possibly infected sheep in Vermont.

Less than half of Americans said they were concerned about mad cow disease becoming a problem in this country in an ABC News-Washington Post poll taken in mid-January. While it's good to use caution when comparing the results from one organization's poll with another, dramatically different results came when the same question was asked. The latest poll of 1,015 adults had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Experts decry alarm over beef

Star Telegram--Saturday 24 March 2001 By Barry Shlachter
Although none shows signs of Mad Cow disease, 21 German cattle have been under observation "for up to four years" on five ranches "scattered around Texas" because the animals may have eaten contaminated feed before being imported in 1996 and 1997, he said.

In addition, eight German- imported cattle were traced to Colorado and one to California. All were destroyed, with tests proving negative for the disease In addition, four cattle from Britain are under quarantine in Vermont, and two from Belgium are quarantined in Minnesota. Earlier, four of a total of 29 German cattle identified in Texas were killed, but tests proved negative, the report says. Three others have died of causes unrelated to BSE.

A Texas Animal Health Commission statement said that calves born to the German cattle have been freely marketed because affected bulls and cows cannot spread BSE to offspring.

Despite the report and the disease outbreaks in Europe, livestock economist Ernie Davis of Texas A&M University expects American consumer confidence in beef to remain strong because animal health authorities moved competently to ensure food safety. But whether the cumulative effect of all the bad news out of Europe might put Americans off their burgers remains to be seen.

Also Friday, the Agriculture Department said there have been no signs of Mad Cow disease in 27 cattle that were brought into the country from Europe in the 1980s and 1990s before bans on their import. There are 21 of the cattle still alive in Texas, four in Vermont, two in Minnesota and one in Illinois.

The cattle are under quarantine and they are tested as each dies. "All the tests have come back negative and no symptoms are showing," said Anna Cherry, a spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Opinion (webmaster): Contradicting actions it took on live imports, USDA approvingly cites a mediocre British study showing low levels of maternal transmission that cow-to-calf transmission. Government web sites overall paint a confusing picture over the risks of horizontal (adult-to-adult) and vertical (cow-to-calf) transmission and the need for consequent monitoring of quarantined live imports and their calves -- USDA did nothing about calves or herd mates of imported animals despite the British study.

Horizontal transmission of other TSEs such as CWD and scrapie, as well as persistence of the agent for years in the environment, are well-documented at game farms and experimental facilities. England never tested herdmates or calves of confirmed BSE cows using modern diagnostic methods nor practised whole herd culling; BSE may become endemic -- after all, scrapie has persisted there for centuries. Because England botched the only transmission studies (to limit economic impacts), no satisfactory answers exist today on these risks.

The risk to the public from live import cows is likely overblown. First, BSE has not been reported, the numbers of cattle and calves are very small, and further spread is hypothetical; secondly, the US has more significant risks elsewhere for amplification of imported or domestic strains of TSE. As in Europe, which also had many theoretical safeguards such as import bans, probably the best way to procede is simply to test extensively with the Prionics kit to determine actual TSE status of the US herd. Indeed, Dr. Gary Weber of NCBA has called for expanded US testing.

Neither the livestock industry nor public health has been particularly well-served by recent dramatic seizures of live imports. The seizure in Vermont of three sheep flocks and their offspring deriving from a Belgian flock has focused media attention on the muddled status of live cattle imports in the US originating from BSE-affected countries such as England, Ireland, Belgium, and Germany.

According to US government web pages, 496 live cattle were imported from Jan 1981 until the first ban of July 89 predominantly from Ireland and Britain. England reported clinical BSE in 5,558 different herds during those years; there was no testing of preclinical animals then or now.

Some 16,749 UK cattle born during the Jan 1988-July 1989 period are known to have developed BSE. The years 1988-mid 1989 were the last of the bad birth years, contributing strongly to the peak onset in 1992. Only 10% (18203) of the 180,915 total reported UK BSE cases were born in later years.

Full data of BSE by year of birth has just been released to Parliament: 60 cows born in the 1970's are listed, the earliest birth year 1974. USDA has not released tracking data on live cattle imported to the US in this decade.

Note however that US imports involved speciality breeds with possibly different (hopefully better) statistics than the "average" UK cow of the time.

Germany and Belgium unfortunately had to be considered BSE-free despite suspicious imports of UK meal and bone meal; no live import ban from these countries could be implemented until Dec 1997. Belgium reported finding its first case on 31 Oct 97 and has acknowledged 23 cases of BSE in total, finding 4 positives in 60,492 confirmed BioRad tests of aclinical animals in recent months for an incidence rate of 66 per million.

After 15 years of steadfast denial, Germany began testing in November of 2000. So far, 55 cases have been found (1, 2)with the earliest four born in 1994; in Prionics testing yielding 22 positives out of 381,481 tests giving an incidence rate of 58 per million.

Europe has conducted a total of 1,101,547 tests for BSE in recent months, finding 77 positives for an incidence rate of 70 per million of normal slaughter age. That incidence may have been higher or lower at the time the US was importing animals from Belgium and Germany.

OriginLive Imports in YearAliveStateRanchesDied and Tested
Britain 4 in 1996-97 4 Vermont 1 0
Belgium 2 in 1996? 2 Minnesota 1 0
Germany 29 in 1996-97 21 Texas 5 4 tested, 3 not. Calves sold.
Germany 8 in 1996-97 0 California 1 8
Germany 1 in 1996-97 0 Colorado 1 1
Germany 1 in 1996? 1 Illinois 1 0

The Braakman site gives current data on how many tests have been conducted by each country and how many positives were found. Spain is a bit uncertain on number of tests conducted and its rate seems too high. 60 cases of BSE per million healthy cattle of slaughter age is a typical figure. The US has tested about 13,000 cattle and plans to do another 5,000, putting it well below Germany and France but in line with countries such as Croatia.

Austria 32,125 0
Belgium 60,492 4
Denmark 53,911 1
France 340,531 9
Germany 381,481 22
Ireland 48,021 0
Italy 54,500 9
Netherlands 80,996 4
Spain 30,000 29
Switzerland 22,697 1
Totals: 1,104,754 79
Incidence per million: 71.5

Italy: Two More Cases BSE Confirmed

Tue, 27 Mar 2001 AP
Italy confirmed two more cases of mad cow disease Tuesday, bringing the total number of infected animals to nine. Another suspected case in central Italy awaits final results.

The infected cows were found in two separate farms in the northern Lombardy region, said the Health Ministry. Final analyses of the brain tissue were conducted in a Turin-based zoological institute.

Italy has tested more than 54,500 animals since the beginning of the year, when the European Union began requiring tests on cattle older than 30 months destined for slaughter. About 1,000 tests await final results, the Health Ministry said.

Many experts believe that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the formal name for mad cow disease, can be transmitted to people who eat meat from infected animals. So far, Italy has had no human cases.

The USDA could have negotiated a solution to the Vermont sheep (Belgium was willing to accept them back) and addressed residual live cattle issues at an earlier point in time. Instead, the agency generated a huge amount of media attention and attendent public confusion with little reduction of risk; livestock producers have hardly benefited:

BSE cases by year of birth

March 29, 2001 UK Parliament
Lord Elder asked Her Majesty's Government:

If they will publish the most recent figures for confirmed BSE cases broken down by year of birth.[HL1480]

The Minister of MAFF (Baroness Hayman): The position in Great Britain as at 26 March 2001 was as follows:

Year of birthTotal number of confirmed cases

* A fourth case of BSE in an animal born in 1996 was confirmed on 9 February. The animal was born in January 1996, before the feed ban is considered to have been fully effective.

A fifth case of BSE in an animal born in 1996 was confirmed on 22 March. The animal was born in May 1996, before the feed ban is considered to have been fully effective.

The unknown dates of birth relate to cattle born before 1 July 1996, when it became mandatory for cattle to have passports which show their date of birth. In some cases it is not possible to confirm the date of birth of these animals from farm records

Agents seize second flock of Vermont she

March 23, 2001 By WILSON RING, Associated Press
Federal agents seized a second flock of Vermont sheep early Friday. The sheep were suspected of having been exposed to a form of mad-cow disease. The owners had fought to keep the flock, urging officials to first complete tests on the other confiscated sheep, but their request was denied. At dawn Friday, police accompanied agents from the Department of Agriculture past about two dozen protesters. On their faces, some protesters wore red dye similar to that put on sheep being hauled away.

After the sheep were loaded onto a truck, about two dozen protesters briefly blocked the road, singing and waving banners that read, among other things, "abuse of judicial process" and "unlawful restraint of trade, harassment."

"This is a government agency completely out of control. We have no check on this agency," said protester John Barkhausen. "It doesn't follow its own rules or regulations."

The 126 East Friesian milking sheep will be taken to a USDA lab in Iowa, where they will be killed. Their brains will be tested for one of a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, a class of neurological diseases that includes both bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, and scrapie, a sheep disease not harmful to humans. The first flock, 234 sheep seized Wednesday from a farm in Greensboro, reached the federal lab on Thursday.

"We are very sympathetic to the owners. This is very difficult for them. This is very difficult for us as well. However, it is our duty, it is our mission to protect American agriculture," said USDA spokesman Ed Curlett.

Owner Larry Faillace said his family was cooperating with agents but not helping them haul away the sheep. "We've never had a positive result on this farm," he said as agents loaded sheep onto a truck. The government "has never wanted to do anything except kill these animals."

Three Faillace children - Jackie, Francis and Heather - each held young lambs marked with red dye. "This is not justice," said Francis Faillace. "Where are our rights?"

The government says some of the sheep may have been exposed to mad-cow disease through contaminated feed before they were imported from Europe in 1996. The sheep have been quarantined since 1998. Nearly 100 people in Europe have died of the human form of BSE since 1995, but no cases have been confirmed in the United States.

Although they aren't sure whether the Vermont sheep are infected, USDA officials have argued that even the remote chance that they could be carrying a mad cow variant poses too great a risk. Thursday evening, friends and neighbors gathered to hold a candlelight vigil for the sheep. The Faillaces have maintained throughout a two-year legal battle with the USDA that there is little solid scientific evidence that the sheep have TSE.

Separately, federal officials are monitoring about two dozen imported cows for signs of mad cow disease, although they have shown no symptoms, said Linda Detwiler, the Agriculture Department's chief expert on the illness. Detwiler said that she believes 22 cows were imported to Texas, four to Vermont and two to Minnesota.

The cows are being monitored because the USDA doesn't know whether they were given contaminated feed before they were imported at least five years ago, apparently from the Netherlands. The USDA had traced the cows years ago and quarantined them, Detwiler said.

Federal agents seize 2d flock in Vermont

3/24/2001 By Stacey Chase, Globe Correspondent 
It was a scene that could have broken a bleating heart.

After federal agents yesterday seized the second flock of 125 sheep feared to be carrying a form of mad cow disease, shepherd Linda Faillace reached through an airhole of the livestock trailer carting them away to pet and calm a lamb named Moe.

"Moe was calling out. ... When he gets scared, he has this particular cry," she explained as tears welled up in her eyes. "He just kept standing there, looking at me."

The seizure at the farm of Larry and Linda Faillace came two days after a related flock of 234 sheep was confiscated at the Greensboro farm owned by philanthropist Houghton Freeman. It ends nine months of legal wrangling over the animals' fate. Agents, along with State Police and officials from the US Department of Agriculture, arrived at the Faillace farm around 6 a.m. to load the East Friesian milking sheep into a trailer. The truck pulled away around 9:15 a.m., on its way to a USDA lab in Iowa where the sheep will be killed, then tested. "This went very smoothly from the USDA's perspective," said spokesman Ed Curlett. "We understand that it was very painful for the family. It was painful for us, too."

About two dozen protesters blocked the road in a brief effort to prevent the trailer from leaving. Later, in parade-like formation, they preceded the vehicle down Roxbury Mountain Road. The protesters carried banners that read: "Unwarranted Search & Seizure" and "Our Political System Is Crazy, Not Our Sheep." One sign bore a swastika with the initials USDA marked in the four bends of the spidery symbol.

The small group of protesters turned out in a snowstorm and bitter-cold temperatures to taunt USDA officials. There were occasional chants of "Deathwiler," referring to Linda Detwiler, the USDA's top authority on transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE.

And protesters sprinkled red paint in the snow to symbolize the coming bloodshed. "I just feel very sad for the family," said Connie Colman, from nearby Warren. "They've just been destroyed by this." Faillace supporter Jacki Harmon of Plainfield said the whole thing made her 'embarrassed to be an American."

Indeed, Larry and Linda Faillace have become local folk heroes in this close-knit central Vermont town. From the beginning, this was a David-and-Goliath battle pitting Vermont shepherds against the US government, with broad powers to seize and destroy animals it believes may have been exposed to mad cow disease or any of its infectious cousins.

The Faillaces' three teenage children each cradled newborn lambs in their arms as USDA officials in brown coveralls went about collecting the rest of the flock. Larry Faillace said his family cooperated with agents, but did not assist them. "It's a sad day for ourselves, obviously," he said. "It's a sad day for sheep farmers all over the world. The USDA, by claiming a phantom disease that doesn't exist in sheep, is putting [the farmers] at risk of being unfairly treated."

The Faillaces have maintained throughout their battle, which began in July when four animals in Freeman's flock tested positive for TSE, that the sheep are healthy and the USDA's tests are based on what Larry Faillace calls "sham science." The night before the seizure, family, friends, and neighbors held a candlelight vigil outside the Faillaces' barns. "It was healing," said Harmon. "We blessed the sheep ... for being peaceful animals and for bringing us peace."

Harmon brought her 6-year-old daughter, Laci, whom she home-schools, with her to the vigil and the protest. "This is her Civics 101 lesson today," Harmon said.

As the sheep pulled out of sight, Faillace vowed his family's fight to educate the public would go on. "This is the beginning of a new chapter of our life and of getting the truth out to the public," said Faillace, who holds a doctorate in animal science. "They've tried to beat us down every way possible. The USDA can destroy these sheep, but they can't destroy the truth."

Farmer's fight sparks debate. Tests for mad cow disease disputed

3/25/2001 Newsday by Laurie Garrett
The U.S. Department of Agriculture met a fiercely determined opponent when it confronted Vermont sheep farmer Larry Faillace in its efforts to protect Americans from mad cow disease.

Faillace, of East Warren, has a doctorate in animal sciences, and is believed to be the first farmer to stand up against a U.S. government order to destroy livestock for reasons of public health. Last July, the USDA set out to destroy three Vermont herds, including Faillace's 126 East Friesian milking sheep, because the animals descended from a Belgian flock that in 1996 may have been fed meat products from mad cows.

Linda and Larry Faillace took the USDA to court, but a Vermont judge ruled against the couple. Wednesday, the USDA seized one of the suspect flocks of sheep from Greensboro, Vt. At dawn on Friday as two dozen protesters watched, it seized Faillace's sheep. Both flocks are fated for slaughter and testing in a USDA laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The test results for mad cow disease could take as long as two years.

On Friday, the USDA said it is monitoring cattle brought into the country from Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, before bans on their import. There are 21 of the cattle still alive in Texas, four in Vermont, two in Minnesota and one in Illinois, all under quarantine. None of the animals-neither the Vermont sheep nor the cattle-have so far shown any symptoms of the disease, which prompts bizarre behavior in infected animals.

With Europe, Asia and Latin America reeling from a new supervirulent strain of foot-and-mouth disease as well as mad cow disease, concern is rising over the safety of the U.S. livestock industry. In the case of foot-and-mouth, caused in the current global outbreak by a southeast Asian superstrain called Type O PanAsia, no risk is involved for human health.

But mad cow disease, which is caused by a transmissible protein agent known as a prion, is 100 percent lethal to infected cows and human beings. Enter Faillace's sheep. In 1998 the USDA, [claiming they had] been alerted by the Belgian government of the possibility that sheep sold to Vermont farms might have eaten prion-contaminated feed, ordered all of the suspect herds quarantined. And the Vermont State Department of Health banned sale of all meat, milk and cheese derived from those animals. Faillace rallied the farmers, protested the USDA orders and refused to turn his herd over to the federal authorities.

"The sheep are the centerpiece of our whole farm operation," Faillace explained Thursday in a telephone interview. "That's our whole livelihood." But the core of Faillace's objection is not financial, he insisted. He's convinced the USDA is wrong-his animals haven't got mad cow prions or any other kind of prions, he says.

"The fact is, more is known about our sheep than any other livestock in this country," Faillace insisted. "We have more assurance about our sheep than any randomly selected meat in the supermarket today. The USDA is using bogus science. This is a cover-up of the first order. This is historic because American farmers have not stood up before to the U.S. government. We're really proud that we did stand up."

Right or wrong, by standing up to the USDA, Faillace and his Vermont colleagues have opened up an enormous can of worms. They've shed light on significant scientific debate about exactly what causes the human prion ailment know as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, which is the human form of mad cow disease, how best to test for prions in the brains and tissues of afflicted animals and what large-scale policies might effectively protect the greater than $12 billion U.S. livestock industry.

In court testimony in Vermont last summer, competing lab tests were presented, some finding evidence of prion infection in Faillace's sheep, and some not. The strongest evidence of infection came from scientist Richard Rubenstein of the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, on Staten Island.

Rubenstein used a general laboratory test made of antibodies that "glom" onto prions, if they are present in a sample, causing an observable reaction in test tubes. The test, called a Western Blot, cannot tell what kind of prions may be present. If properly performed, it can, however, say whether or not prions are in the autopsied brains of animals. Rubenstein, who declined to speak to Newsday pending approval from the Albany headquarters of his agency, has repeatedly insisted that his test offered "definitive evidence," even proof, that the Vermont sheep were indeed infected with prions. And USDA chief pathologist Linda Detwiler said in an interview Thursday that the data demonstrates that the sheep "have a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy," or prion infection.

Critics charge that Rubenstein's tests were not definitive, although Faillace lost the court challenge. "I did review the Western Blot data. I wasn't persuaded," said Dr. Thomas Pringle, an expert on prion diseases. "I think, at a minimum, it needed to be repeated." Pringle is an independent prion and genomics consultant based in Eugene, Ore. He argues that the Europeans are now using far superior prion tests that can be performed for less than $30, take three to seven hours to complete and are significantly more accurate than the Western Blots employed by Rubenstein and the USDA.

Detwiler, noting that there are three different FDA-approved European prion tests, said the USDA is now "exploring which one will work best in our laboratories."

But even if the European tests had been used on Faillace's sheep, controversy would persist, the farmer said. That's because none of these lab techniques can tell what kind of prion is in a sample. And there are many types, only some of which may be capable of causing human disease.

The British government has officially determined that the bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, type of prion that causes mad cow has killed about 100 people so far, and is likely to kill many more over time because death usually comes more than 20 years after infection. It also seems likely that the prion that causes chronic wasting disease in American elk and deer may be dangerous to people, Detwiler said.

But the most common prion in sheep is scrapie. And Detwiler insisted: "There's no evidence that scrapie goes to human CJD," causing any illness in human beings. [Actually there is good published evidence (1, 2) suggesting at least some scrapie strains transmit to humans. -- webmaster] In lab tests, scrapie can produce severe damage to human brains, but it does so more slowly and with less efficiency than BSE.

The general Western Blots done by Rubenstein, therefore, may have just picked up scrapie, not BSE. And scrapie sheep, according to the FDA, are not dangerous. "I want to repeat," Detwiler said, "I'm not saying we have BSE in Vermont. Absolutely not."

One of the world's experts on scrapie prions is Mike Scott, a Scottish scientist working in the University of California's San Francisco lab of Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, who discovered prions. Scott agrees with the USDA, sort of: "I'm not all that concerned," Scott said in an interview. "It doesn't mean that one in 10 million people might not get a CJD from sheep, however. I personally think any prion-infected animal is not safe for human consumption. I think with these diseases the best thing is to always err on the side of caution. And I think it's right to do everything possible to prevent BSE from ever getting into American cattle."

Ultimately, the USDA will only be able to prove that the Vermont sheep have BSE by killing the animals and feeding their brains to other sheep, as well as cows. If those animals contract BSE two years from now, the evidence will be in. [The first task is to find genuinely TSE positive sheep -- otherwise there is nothing to use as inoculum. -- webmaster]

Overall, the difficulties faced by both the Faillaces and the regulators stem from a common problem: the prions themselves. They are bizarre. They are not living organisms like viruses and bacteria. They do not behave according to classic rules of disease. Instead, they act more like crystals, triggering changes in the protein of the brain not unlike those that occur when salted water turns to a pile of dehydrated salt crystals.

Prions are abnormal forms of proteins that are normally found in the brain. When prions are introduced from the brain or spinal cord of another animal, the newly infected brain slowly undergoes a crystallization process. Year by year, one by one, every similar protein in the brain slips into the abnormal shape and that, in turn, drives the animal mad.

All sides in the Vermont sheep debate are ultimately arguing, then, about these crystallizing proteins that are poorly understood, hard to detect and impossible to cure.

Unwelcome quiet: Vermont farming family copes with seizure of sheep

3/25/2001 Newsday by Hugo Kugiya Staff Correspondent
The morning after the raid brought a kind of silence never before heard on the Faillaces' farm. The barn was empty yesterday except for the two llamas, one of them arthritic, that the family bought to protect the grazing sheep from coyotes and stray dogs. They could not protect the flock from the federal agents wearing bullet-proof vests and holstered guns beneath their jackets.

The family, which includes children Francis, 16, Heather, 15, and Jackie, 14, moved here in 1993 to make a living raising Belgian sheep. But because a laboratory test showed that four of the family's 125 animals carried a form of bacteria similar to that which causes mad cow disease, they were forced by federal agents Friday to give up the entire flock. {Lab results were mixed. 60 sheep tested negative on lymph bioassay, histopahtology did not support a TSE diagnosis, 4 western blots at a contract lab were said positive, an unvalidated blood test gave mixed readings. USDA refused Prionics testing or replication of western blots by neutral labs in Europe.-- webmaster]

The government plans to destroy the animals in Iowa, taking no chances, then test their brains for the disease. The Faillaces swear on their hearts their animals are healthy. They question the accuracy of the lab test, suspecting a false positive. Whatever the lab detected, if anything, is harmless to humans, Larry Faillace said, and their sheep are not bred to be eaten. The Faillaces use the milk to make cheese.

The way he sees it, said Faillace, who has a doctorate in animal science and coincidentally spent three years in England studying mad cow disease, their sheep were killed because they came from Europe, victims of a hysteria that led to their unnecessary demise. The government said some of the sheep may have been exposed to mad cow through contaminated feed before they were imported.

The family business is called the Three Shepherds of the Mad River Valley, a reference to the children, who don't have the heart to visit the empty barn, surrounded by snow drifts. As farmers, the Faillaces are the minority in this rural community dominated by quaint bed-and-breakfast lodgings like the Featherbed Inn, quirky, sweet-smelling boutiques with names like Barn-It-All, and the nearby Sugarbush ski resort. This part of Vermont, just south of Montpelier on the eastern edge of the Green Mountain National Forest, is the Vermont of postcards, and now home to many lawyers, architects, artists and ski bums.

Like many of them, the Faillaces are innovators and idealists, convinced they can do good by the land and the animals and make a nice living from it. They trade favors with neighbors, make compost for the gardeners they know, wake up to a New England paradise every day and while they're at it, peddle their cheese to the likes of Martha Stewart. "You can see now why we fought so hard to protect it [the farm]," Larry Faillace said.

What the Faillaces will do without their sheep is uncertain, although Larry Faillace promised the farm would go on in some form. "We have a lot of time on our hands now and we aren't sure what to do with it," said Jackie, who along with her siblings slept in for the first time in memory. Usually they are doing chores by 6 a.m.

The Faillaces will be compensated for the flock, but Larry and his wife, Linda, do not expect to receive full value or to see the money for years. The sheep were purchased for $5,000 each and have appreciated in value.

The Faillaces make two cheeses, a hard, slightly salty cheese they call Montagne and a soft, herb cheese made with rosemary, thyme, lavender and raspberry leaf they call Warren Meadows. They sell it for about $20 a pound, much of it from their farm store or by mail order. They sold 200 pounds the first year and expected to sell 5,000 pounds this year before their sheep were confiscated. The family milks their sheep from spring through fall, the grazing season. Spring is when most of the lambs are born and when the Faillaces start making cheese. The beginning of winter is the beginning of breeding season.

Although the family made its living from the sheep, they have become something more than livestock. The family members, especially Jackie, have formed very real attachments to the sheep, many of which Larry personally escorted from Belgium. He flew with them in the same airplane to Kennedy Airport, and because it was a cargo plane, he could check on them during the flight.

Jackie's parents often found her asleep in the barn with the sheep, using them as pillows. "They don't mind," Jackie said, crying. "They're very peaceful animals. I spent a lot of time in the barn, just petting them." She stayed in the barn Friday morning so she wouldn't have to watch the march to the truck.

They took to naming about three dozen of them, like the unusually independent Upsala and the remarkably affectionate Mrs. Friendly. The best milk producers and the most prized rams also tended to have names. So did the bottle-feeders, the lambs that were rejected by their mothers. Moe was last year's bottle feeder, a twin, who grew up in the family's sunroom with the rabbit and guinea pig. He was nuzzled like an infant and treated like a favorite pet.

"He thought he was a dog," Linda said, crying. "I'd call him and he would call back and come to me. He had a distinct call.

"After he was loaded into the truck, he called to me. He couldn't understand why he was inside and I was outside. I think he was the only one who knew something was wrong. Upsala also called for her lambs because she is a very protective mother. Once she found them, she was OK. The last time they were loaded into a truck it was to come to greener pastures in Vermont."

Comment (webmaster):

The next stage of this ongoing controversy will unfold at a USDA lab in Ames, Iowa. No doubt seeking to bury the issue, the USDA has stated many times that 2-3 years of testing will be required. That's true enough -- if strain typing of a TSE in mice were under discussion. But this gets way ahead of the story -- the crucial next step is finding a positive sheep to provide the inoculum.

Testing 323 sheep with the best available method, the Prionics kit, would take a week to ten days -- after all, France and Germany routinely run 40,000 tests a week; their tests to date total 722,012.

USDA has dropped some hints that they favor the ELISA test developed by the French and marketed by BioRad. This test in Germany has yielded a large number of false positives, in sharp contrast to the Prionics test. In other words, Prionics testing could quickly rule out scrapie and BSE in these sheep, whereas the BioRad offers USDA the hope of false positives that could engender years of delays as "more studies are needed."

However, the BioRad test has been validated in Europe; a recent paper by Deslys et al. [Nature. 2001 Jan 25;409(6819):476-8] shows excellent correlation between the improved French ELISA test and bioassay, that is, the time consuming bioassay is not necessary for sensitivity purposes. Pre-existing lab contamination for scrapie at NVSL is a serious issue because NVSL regularly collects US scrapie tissue samples. Controls for necropsy room contamination are unlikely in a mouse bioassay, again offering USDA a way out of its dilemma.

In summary, the USDA faces long odds for confirming any form of TSE in these sheep and so will probably adopt stalling tactics to save further embarrassment. It is unlikely that any of the sheep even have scrapie, given the intense clinical scrutiny and advanced age of the original imported sheep in conjunction with 60/60 testing negative on the highly reliable third eyelid biopsy. Obviously there can't be straintyping (for BSE) if the sheep don't have any prion disease to begin with.

BSE in sheep, if a real problem, should have shown up long ago in Britain. However none has ever been found. Granted, the British search has been half-hearted. Two experimental transmission studies of BSE to sheep have been published; these provide the necessary standards for comparison.

Foster JD, Hope J, Fraser H. Transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to sheep and goats. Veterinary Record 133:339-341, 1993.

Foster JD, Bruce M, McConnell I, Chree A, Fraser H. Detection of BSE infectivity in brain and spleen of experimentally infected sheep. Veterinary Record 138:546-548, 1996

US officials: feed mills still breaking mad cow rules

Sat, 24 Mar 2001 NY Post  
Hundreds of feed mills are still breaking rules meant to control the spread of mad cow disease, although compliance has improved since the government began reinspecting some plants in January, federal officials said Friday. Growing pressure from the meatpacking and fast-food industries should help force feed companies into compliance, said George Mitchell, a senior official with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Association.

McDonald's Corp. has given its meat suppliers until April 1 to certify that the cattle they buy were fed in accordance with FDA regulations. Now, meatpackers, cattle producers and feed mills are all developing certification programs designed to show they are complying with the rules.

FDA outlawed the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats in 1997 and imposed a series of rules to ensure that feed mills comply with the ban. The feed regulations are designed to keep the brain-wasting disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy otherwise known as mad cow, from spreading if it ever reaches this country.

Thirteen percent of 397 feed mills that are licensed by FDA and that process meat and bone meal have no system for preventing those products from being mixed with other ingredients, the agency said Friday. Fifteen percent were not using required warning labels. Mills must be licensed by FDA if they add medications to feed.

There are another 1,829 unlicensed feed mills that handle meat and bone meal, and a third of them did not comply with the labeling requirement. Eighteen percent did not have systems to prevent mixups in feed ingredients. FDA found higher compliance rates among animal rendering plants, which supply meat and bone meal to feed mills.

Since January, the agency has re-inspected about 157 feed mills and rendering plants and one, a rendering facility, was still out of compliance, Mitchell said.

Mad Cow precautions helped spread Foot-And-Mouth

Friday March 23 By Richard Woodman Reuters Health
Best websites for foot-and-mouth disease updates: MAFF, outbreak map,  and National Pig Association, BBC, and OIE/FAO/IAH foot-and-mouth home page
Latest position at 15:00 on 29 March 2001: 752 cases in Great Britain and 1 in Northern Ireland. 
  Of the 55 million livestock in the UK 764,319 have been identified for slaughter
  and 481,909 have already been slaughtered leaving 282,410 awaiting slaughter.
  346,998 carcasses have been disposed of.
Precautions taken in the wake of Britain's epidemic of mad cow disease may have contributed to the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease, a food policy expert claimed Friday. Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University, in London, said many small local slaughterhouses were shut down during the mad cow disease crisis because of public health concerns.

As a result, animals were transported, sometimes hundreds of miles, to be killed in larger slaughterhouses--one reason why the current foot-and-mouth outbreak was so quickly distributed all over the UK, he told the Foreign Press Association in London.

The disease afflicts cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows, causing sores and severe weight loss. In general, the disease poses no risk to humans. On Friday, 42 new cases of foot-and-mouth were confirmed in Britain, bringing the total to 479.

Lang said the closure of small slaughterhouses was a classic example of solving one public health problem only to create others. Transporting animals for hundreds of miles was "crazy" in terms of economics and animal welfare. Much better to have upgraded the small slaughterhouses, he argued.

The comments came as Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to European Union leaders to send veterinarians to Britain to help deal with the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Lang, who is a trustee of Friends of the Earth, denied Britain was responsible for the spread of foot-and-mouth disease into Ireland and continental Europe. "We can't blame Britain for this. What we have is a disease that has been spreading from Asia and Northern Africa. But what we can do is say that the structure of the food economy in northern Europe means we have created the conditions in which the disease can spread, " he added.

Britain mulls animal vaccinations

27 March  01 By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer
Determined to stem the tide of foot-and-mouth, the British government said Tuesday it may reverse a long-held policy and vaccinate livestock against the disease.

Meanwhile, the government suggested an illegal act may have brought the fast-spreading livestock disease into Britain. News reports said the infection had been traced to a shipment of imported meat to a Chinese restaurant in Northern England. Some of the uneaten meat was fed to pigs in swill, the British news agency Press Association said.

The British government has sought to avoid vaccination because it would keep other nations' doors shut to livestock exports. Nations that vaccinate lose their "foot-and-mouth free" status on world markets, because inoculated animals are difficult to distinguish from those carrying the virus. But the government, under fire from the opposition, is increasingly desperate to halt the spread of the disease.

"A few days ago even, this was generally regarded as anathema to very large parts of the farming community," Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) told the British Broadcasting Corp. "As you track the disease and see how it spreads, things that may have seemed utterly unpalatable a short time ago have to be on the agenda." ...

On Monday, Britain began burying thousands of slaughtered sheep in a pit on a disused airfield in Cumbria, the northwestern English county worst hit by the outbreak. Thousands of apparently healthy animals are to be slaughtered in a bid to create a "firebreak" around heavily infected sites. Up to a half million animals could eventually be buried at the airfield, and the army was considering up to five further sites in England should the crisis intensify. Across the border in Scotland, authorities said Monday they had chosen a burial site for more than 200,000 sheep carcasses. Another mass grave for up to 40,000 sheep was being dug on the island of Anglesey in Wales.

Belgium, which has so far escaped the virus, was investigating a suspected case on a cattle farm. The agriculture ministry said the sick animals had bovine virus diarrhea, not foot-and-mouth, although tests were still being conducted. The Netherlands, which confirmed its first three cases of FMD yesterday, has reported that it suspects it may have another four cases on its hands. Test results are pending.

A goat imported to Italy from France has been put down after showing symptoms of FMD. Results of tests on blood samples from the animal were expected late today. This is Italy's second suspected case - the previous report proved negative. Meanwhile, in Germany officials are investigating a suspected case of the disease at a pig farm in Lower Saxony, while in Luxembourg a flock of sheep imported from the Netherlands is being tested.

A Dutch veterinary company, Intervet, has announced that in September it will begin marketing an FMD serological test capable of distinguishing antibodies triggered by FMD infection from those induced as a result of vaccination. The inability to distinguish vaccinated animals from those which have been exposed to the virus is one of the key reasons for the 'no vaccination' policy of the EU and many other countries.

Damian Aspinall, who runs Howletts Zoo in Kent and Port Lympne Zoo near Folkestone, wants endangered species excluded from plans to cull healthy animals within 3 km of high-infection areas. Mr Aspinall is insisting that he will not allow any cull of his zoos' elephants, even if authorities deem it necessary. "One may have to do it with domestic animals, but you can't value a domestic animal as you would an endangered animal," he is reported to have said. Howletts Zoo is within the exclusion zone of an outbreak in the village of Adisham.

Dutch vaccination about face

27 Mar 01 Ananova
Dutch vets have killed 20,000 cattle and heeded an EU request not to vaccinate farm animals in an effort to contain foot-and-mouth disease. Instead, animals on three farms in the eastern Netherlands were destroyed after confirmed cases were found. More cases are suspected on two farms in the southern province of Brabant and the animals are earmarked for destruction. Earlier newspaper reports said a vaccination campaign had already begun, using emergency supplies that have been in storage for years.

Professor Martin Hugh-Jones, a vet closely involved in the eradication of the 1967 FMD outbreak has given suggestions for dealing with the current outbreak. He favours culling infected animals within hours of diagnosis and using napalm to dispose of the carcasses.

The mix of petrol and glue was successfully used by the Nevada Department of Agriculture during an outbreak of anthrax last year. Professor Hugh-Jones, told New Scientist it's perfectly safe if used properly and does not produce dangerous fumes. Nor does it produce any dangerous by-products as a result of burning. He added that for the cost of a few pence, napalm could destroy a carcass in 60 minutes, while a £1,400 wooden pyre takes three days.

Timber phone calls "part of an exercise"

27 Mar 01  Telegraph
MAFF is facing further pressure over its handling of the FMD crisis after timber merchants claimed they were asked about the supply of wood for the incineration of animals two weeks before the disease was confirmed. Timber merchant Mike Littlehales said the last time his timber business had received a similar call was during the foot and mouth outbreak in 1967.

A statement from MAFF said the calls could have been made as part of a routine periodic emergency planning exercise. The ministry said it was "completely untrue" that it knew about the outbreak before the Essex case emerged.

USDA toys with vaccination

27 Mar 01, USA Today
Officials with the Department of Agriculture are saying that the agency's field personnel might quickly vaccinate thousands or even millions of livestock if there were to be an outbreak of FMD in the US. An official with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said vaccination had been thought of as "a last-ditch remedy." However, officials reportedly changed their minds after a mock outbreak drill conducted last November in Texas.

FMD News Digest

28/03/01By Helena Spedding Deputy editor, Animal Pharm BBC, Ananova
The Prime Minister admitted today that he could not say when the FMD outbreak would be brought fully under control. In a bleak assessment of the scale of the problem facing the Government, Mr Blair disclosed that 1.35 million sheep were exported or moved around the country during February before the disease was detected....

Government efforts to eradicate FMD were thrown into further disarray on Tuesday night after Downing Street admitted that it did not have the legal powers to enforce the planned mass cull of healthy animals.

Emergency legislation may be needed to overcome the objections of farmers in Cumbria to the Prime Minister's plan for a "firebreak" cull of all animals within a three-kilometre radius of infected farms.

This would include areas of Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and possibly Devon and would increase five-fold the number of healthy animals to be culled to almost five million. However, some five weeks after the start of the outbreak, ministers have still not taken emergency powers to enable them to do so without the consent of farmers....

Britain has just been given permission to vaccinate 180,000 cattle in Cumbria and Devon to counter the spread of FMD....The accord applies to 100,000 cattle in Cumbria and 80,000 in Devon, animals currently in sheds for the winter but which will be brought out to pasture in May.

A BBC Newsnight survey conducted over the past few days found that farmers affected by the FMD outbreak did not support how the Government had dealt with the crisis. The poll said 70% of those questioned disagreed with the Government's handling of the outbreak...68% apparently said Britain needed to "fundamentally rethink" the way it farms.

Animals could be buried alive in the mass cull aimed at stamping out the FMD crisis, the RSPCA warned today. The charity said it had "grave concerns" about many aspects of the slaughter and said that its inspectors should be allowed to oversee the killing to ensure it was done humanely...

The Society also expressed concerned about the use of rifles in the slaughter, as it feared some animals might not be killed outright. "We have received reports of terrified cattle being chased to one end of a barn and shot with rifles with animals clambering over one another in their panic," Mr Laurence said.

Opinion (webmaster): Containment of this massive outbreak is futile -- Britain already plans to slaughter 10% of its livestock but has accomplished next to nothing, other than to rid itself of a good bit of scrapie and preclinical BSE (provided these weren't spread in the pyres). Once foot-and-mouth becomes more widespread in pigs, winds will quickly waft it across the channel to high-intensity pig operations in Europe and soon thereafter be all over the world.

Many countries around the world accept foot and mouth disease as a natural endemic disease. Western countries decided some years back to seek disease-free status, increasingly difficult to maintain given the intensification of agricultural operations, pursuit of ever more competitive efficiency, and unrestrained boosterism for free trade. Trade considerations meant not vaccinating animals, simply because it was inconvenient to distinuish sera of vaccinated animals from naturally occuring viral response antibodies. This also supplied a rationale for shutting endemic countries out of world trade.

A massive outbreak in Europe will likely result in a permanent attitude change -- a shift back to vaccines worldwide. While the public remains suspicious of genetically engineered viruses, a carrier can be constructed that would allow vaccinated animals to be readily distinguished from infected ones. Vaccines are not a total solution for intensive facilities and some loss of production efficiency may have to be accepted, as it is already in many countries with endemic disease.

Pet food makers making few changes

Friday 23 Mar 01 By Julie Ingwersen Reuters
The pet food industry has no plans to back away from meat and bone meal, a feed ingredient suspected of spreading mad cow disease through Europe but seen as little threat to US pets or livestock. By contrast, at least three top livestock feed producers have stopped using cattle-based meat and bone meal as a precaution, including number three US feed maker Purina Mills Inc., which dropped the ingredient in January.

Made from ground-up cattle and other types of livestock, and not always separated by species, meat and bone meal (MBM) is an inexpensive source of protein. Experts say as long as the animals used to make MBM are not affected by mad cow disease, the material is perfectly safe in food for cats and dogs.

"If the disease doesn't occur here in cattle, there shouldn't be any danger in pet food," said Dr. Lyle Vogel of the American Veterinary Medical Association. There has never been a case of mad cow disease confirmed in the United States. The brain-wasting disease, believed to be caused by abnormal proteins in the brain and nervous system, is fatal to cattle.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for the Pet Food Institute, said the MBM produced in the United States remains an excellent source of protein and minerals for pets. "It's an excellent ingredient. It's highly digestible for dogs and cats," said Payne, whose group represents pet food manufacturers. But individual manufacturers that use MBM were reluctant to comment on the subject.

In Europe, MBM is believed to have transmitted mad cow disease after cattle with the disease were ground up and mixed into rations fed to herds in Britain and on the continent. In reaction, the US and other nations established laws to keep "byproducts" from slaughter of cud-chewing, ruminant animals like cattle, sheep and goats from being fed back to other ruminants.

Such byproducts are still allowed in feed rations for non-ruminants like hogs and poultry, and in pet food, based on scientific opinion that BSE cannot "jump" into such species. Still, many scientists think feeding cattle MBM made from sheep carrying the BSE-like disease scrapie was the source of the original outbreak of BSE in Britain in the mid-1980's.

Purina Mills CEO Brad Kerbs said in January that he approved of cattle-based MBM as an ingredient but could not guarantee that the company's large multi-species livestock feed mills would be able to keep it segregated from cattle feed, as required by US law. Other top ten livestock feed makers shunning cattle-based MBM include Consolidated Nutrition LC of Omaha, Nebraska, and Kent Feeds of Muscatine, Iowa.

So are Fido and Snowball safe from mad cow disease? The question remains since BSE belongs to a family of diseases, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). From studying TSEs, some scientists have linked BSE with related conditions in humans, sheep, deer and mink--and cats.

Since 1990, for example, almost 90 cats--including more than a dozen lions, tigers and other big cats at British zoos--have been diagnosed in Europe with feline spongiform encephalopathy. No specific pet food has been implicated in the cases, but agriculture officials in Britain said all the cats ate foods that would be expected to contain animal byproducts.

The number of feline cases has fallen sharply in recent years as authorities in Britain and elsewhere have worked to remove contaminated cows from the food and feed chain. "That epidemic has been over for a while," George Gray, a toxicologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said of the feline version of mad cow. "It's my understanding there haven't been any cases in a number of years." [This understanding is completely erroneous. In any event, surveillance for mad cat disease has been haphazard. Italy, N Ireland, Norway, and Lichtenstein also have confirmed cases -- webmaster]

In the US pet food industry, MBM remains a popular "meaty" ingredient, found most often in dry "kibble" pellets but also in some canned food varieties. Many labels do not specify whether the meat and bone meal came from cattle.

With ruminant byproducts shut out of cattle feed mixes, more MBM may also be showing up in pet food, said Dr. Jean Hofve, a veterinarian with the Animal Protection Institute, an animal advocacy organization based in Sacramento, Calif.

"There was a huge amount of hog byproducts that were going into dog food for a while but now is being routed into ruminant feed. So where is the ruminant (byproduct) going? Well, it's going where the pig stuff used to go"--into pet food, she said.

Animal byproducts like MBM comprise only about 5% or less of a typical livestock feed ration. But because cats and dogs have different dietary needs, meat byproducts account for up to 50% of the content in cat food and up to 40% in dog food, according to a 1997 industry survey.

Putative TSE in hounds

BSE Inquiry document  YB90/11.28/1.1  work started 1990  (see para 41)
37. Robert Higgins, a Veterinary Investigation Officer at Thirsk, had been working on a hound survey in 1990. Gerald Wells and I myself received histological sections from this survey along with the accompanying letter (YB90/11.28/1.1) dated November 1990. This letter details spongiform changes found in brains from hunt hounds failing to keep up with the rest of the pack, along with the results of SAF [scrapie associated fibrils] extractions from fresh brain material from these same animals.

SAFs were not found in brains unless spongiform changes were also present. The spongiform changes were not pathognomonic (ie. conclusive proof) for prion disease, as they were atypical, being largely present in white matter rather than grey matter in the brain and spinal cord. However, Tony Scott, then head of electron microscopy work on TSEs, had no doubt that these SAFs were genuine and that these hounds therefore must have had a scrapie-like disease.

I reviewed all the sections myself (original notes appended) and although the pathology was not typical, I could not exclude the possibility that this was a scrapie-like disorder, as white matter vacuolation is seen in TSEs and Wallerian degeneration was also present in the white matter of the hounds, another feature of scrapie.

38.I reviewed the literature on hound neuropathology, and discovered that micrographs and descriptive neuropathology from papers on hound ataxia’ mirrored those in material from Robert Higgins’ hound survey. Dr Tony Palmer (Cambridge) had done much of this work, and I obtained original sections from hound ataxia cases from him. This enabled me provisionally to conclude that Robert Higgins had in all probability detected hound ataxia, but also that hound ataxia itself was possibly a TSE. Gerald Wells confirmed in blind examination of single restricted microscopic fields that there was no distinction between the white matter vacuolation present in BSE and scrapie cases, and that occurring in hound ataxia and the hound survey cases.

39.Hound ataxia had reportedly been occurring since the 1930's, and a known risk factor for its development was the feeding to hounds of downer cows, and particularly bovine offal. Circumstantial evidence suggests that bovine offal may also be causal in FSE, and TME in mink. Despite the inconclusive nature of the neuropathology, it was clearly evident that this putative canine spongiform encephalopathy merited further investigation.

40.The inconclusive results in hounds were never confirmed, nor was the link with hound ataxia pursued. I telephoned Robert Higgins six years after he first sent the slides to CVL. I was informed that despite his submitting a yearly report to the CVO including the suggestion that the hound work be continued, no further work had been done since 1991. This was surprising, to say the very least. [The slides could easily be checked today with modern antibody methods. Similarly, frozen tissue is still available from white tigers from the 1970's with spongiform disease but going untested by the English. A Norwegian dog was said negative by the English. -- webmaster]

41.The hound work could have provided valuable evidence that a scrapie-like agent may have been present in cattle offal long before the BSE epidemic was recognised. The MAFF hound survey remains unpublished.

CWD in wild mule deer in Saskatchewan: hunting industry faces CWD devastation

Thu 05 Apr 2001 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) by Murray Mandryk
REGINA -- A two-year-old mule deer shot in northwest Saskatchewan last year has tested positive for the same chronic wasting disease (CWD) that's plagued the province's domestic elk herd. Government officials are being cautious about the test results, but a former NDP cabinet minister and current director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) has said any case of chronic wasting disease in a wild animal could be a ``severe blow'' to the province's big-game industry.

Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management (SERM) has obtained ``suspicious test results'' in a deer shot by a hunter in the Manitou Sandhills south of Lloydminster last November, government sources say.

The animal was shot about 10 kilometres south of an elk game farm where several animals had tested positive for CWD.

Chronic wasting disease, which affects elk, mule deer and whitetail deer, is part of a family of diseases that includes mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Scientists say the cause is unknown, there is no treatment or vaccine, and researchers don't know how it is transmitted among animals. There is no evidence chronic wasting disease can infect people.

Art Jones, SERM's communication director, would only confirm Wednesday there was one ``suspicious result'' emerging from testing on more than 1,400 elk and deer heads shot by hunters and tested by the department as part of an awareness campaign.

``To my knowledge, we have only the one suspicious test,'' Jones said. Jones added more samples have been forwarded to the federal laboratory in Nepean, Ont., and to the University of Colorado for testing. He would not speculate on what the impact a confirmed test result would have on the province's lucrative hunting industry.

However, former NDP environment minister Lorne Scott, now the SWF executive director, said the impact could be devastating.

``There would be virtually no chance of eradicating it if it's in the wild,'' Lorne Scott has said. ``It would be a severe blow to the hunting industry and the animals themselves.'' Scott was not available for comment Wednesday.

But the newly elected president of the Saskatchewan Elk Breeders Association says no one should panic just yet.

``There have been other times when they thought they had positive test results and they didn't,'' said Bob Kirkpatrick, adding people should wait until the test results are confirmed. ``We don't know if this animal was close to an elk farm affected,'' said Kirkpatrick, adding even though it was close to the game farm, it may have never come near the elk. Moreover, no one knows if CWD is something that occurs naturally in wild game and has been there all the time, he said.

``It's never been tested for before.''

About 2,500 of the province's 28,000 domestic elk herd have been destroyed because of concerns about CWD. About three dozen had shown symptoms of the disease. The federal government has handed out more than $6 million in compensation to elk ranchers whose animals had to be destroyed.

Voice of the people

22 Mar 01 Anonymous questions emailed from public to webmaster
Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not evaluated nor endorsed by this site.
"Is mad cow disease contagious or do you have to ingest it. i'd like to know if mad cow disease can affect to human beings"

"*i have a ?* I am going to travel to Europe this summer. After hearing lots of information about the mad cow disease, I will not eat any sort of beef while traveling through France, Germany, or Italy. Should I be worried about eating cheese, or milk, or any other sort of animal meat? "

"on march 04 2001 i lost my stepfather to cjd . it was the worst ex. of my life ,he died in my is a very cruel disease. his health went down so fast ,near the end you could watch him go down by the minute ... no one diserves to go like that people dont realize the risk they are in ,they dont believe it will happen here.well it has ,many others will have it also.sad but true. im glad there is someone like you trying to help . the worst part is by the time everyone realizes how bad this realy is it will be to late ! who knows we could all have it ,and just dont know it yet"

"Has anyone suggested looking into a bacteria as a cure. Using one that could be engineered to harvest or eat the proins and then a way to kill them and take them out of the body. Kind of following the cycle of the food chain that was dirupted when the sheeps were feed to the cows. Also, Maybee a variant of cecal bacteria since rabbits have that one and seem to be benign to the disease."

"doc--iv in ny times startling,patic bit re french wine(oy!) pls explain why english cheeses & not fr cheeses, sp cheese etc? are dairy products as risky as beef, lamb ,etc? yrs is a worthy task. keep it up"

"I had read a while ago that mad cow disease was not passed on through cow's milk. Is this true or false?"

"Sorry to bother you again, but I am trying to find out how I can get records of the amount of cattle shipped all around the world, and the amount of bone feed that is shipped to different countries every year from 1986 to present. I am trying to create an interactive flash map showing all this info, but I am having trouble finding the exact numbers."

"I have a question about the transmition of BSE through the consumption of nutritional supplements for cattle. Specifically, I am wondering if Grade A White Rendered Porkfat cooked at 310F and above can transmit BSE. The porkfat is one of many ingredients used in nutritional supplement lick blocks for cattle during gestation."

" Is it true that commercial pet food has brain and spinal columns from all types of animals, including euthanized dometicated pets >from animal shelters in it? There are many reported cases of domesticated cats infected with BSE in England. Are there any provisions to protect our pets, and also what are the guidelines on chicken feed?"

"STOP FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We call out to all the European farmers to raise their voice against the european vaccination policy Met vriendelijke groe"

"A group of my friends were discussing a trip to the UK and someone brought up the concern of the Foot and Mouth Disease. In the course of the ensuing conversation, it became evident that there are two diseases that are currently in the news: (1) Mad Cow Disease, and (2) Foot and Mouth Disease. Some thought the two were synonymous, but none of us are sure. Are the two diseases related? What are the basic differences if the two are not the same?"

"My just released novel, Blood Feud, is the first popular fiction out in which BSE plays a major plot role.  This is also my first novel, and I would love to get it promoted. Can you suggest any other promotional areas that might be helpful?"

"Having lived in France for 1 year in 1989 and 9 months in 2000 during my husband's post doc and subsequent sabbatical I worry that my family has been exposed to CJD. Are we at risk?"

"Hello - I'm wondering if mad cow disease can be in the milk I buy at the local market? Can it be in "any" dairy product? - yogurts, cheeses, ice cremes, the milks my GRANDbabies drink? I'm so turned off by the idea of mad cow disease, that I've stopped eating meat - it just does not appeal to me. I am tho, getting protein from other sources - eggs from my chickens, cheeses(from the local supermarket), as yogurts also, tofu etc., but now I'm wondering about any product from cows."

"I know of a person in Akron who died from Mad Cow Disease. He had been in England several months earlier. Has there been any other deaths reported in the U.S.A. from MCD or its variants? "

"I know of two confirmed human deaths of Mad Cow Deases in the San Diego area. Both confirmed with an autopsy in the last 6 months. I didn't know this disease was in the US. What do you make of this? "

"I heard today that 2 to 4 people had died of Mad Cow Disease in Denvers' St. Josephs Hospital. The source seems to be reliable. Have you heard anything?"

"what hapens when you have mad caw: djfskak vmaskd;hlkn avnfkjgkl vfvnvknkgjas;ltuhj84jg nv gnfmdngj;"

"Estimado colega: desearía saber en que lugar de internet o bien la dirección de e mail para conseguir fotos y videos de ovinos con scrapie y bovinos con bse en donde se puedan ver sintomas de la enfermedad. Este material es para usarlo en clases de la universidad en un pais libre de scrapie y bse."

"Can you please tell me why Mark Perdey's research is not getting space on your web-site, when all other research is? It seems to be a legitimate alternative theory, with an increasing level of science backing it up. The fact that its author is not University educated, perhaps slightly excentric, or is not universally accepted should'nt detract from this at all."

" One of my questions about the deer and elk was how did they get their form of BSE and won't it spread to all of the deer and elk population in the Rocky Mountains eventually?'

"Is it true that commercial pet food has brain and spinal columns from all types of animals, including euthanized dometicated pets from animal shelters in it?  There are many reported cases of domesticated cats infected with BSE in England.  Are there any provisions to protect our pets, and also what are the guidelines on chicken feed?"

"I found your article concerning the species jump of scabies between sheep and cattle most interesting.  It prompted me to seek additional answers for the range wars that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century.  I found an article that hinted to the cattlemen's fear of scabies...:'Nomadic sheepmen or drifters were attacked by both cattlemen and settled sheepmen because of their twisting or rolling of fences to allow passage of their flocks and because they drove sheep infected with scab across the ranges.' "

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