Dutch mad cow disease case concerns variant that is less dangerous for humans

AMSTERDAM - The new case of mad cow disease found in the Netherlands this week concerns the atypical variant of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), said the Ministry of Agriculture in an update on Wednesday. To date, no human cases of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have been linked to atypical BSE. However, humans who consume meet from cows infected with classical BSE can develop the fatal neurological disease many years later. The current situation does not pose a serious threat to public health, the ministry said. 


The eight-year-old cow with atypical BSE was found on a farm in Zuid-Holland, the ministry said. The diagnosis was determined by scientists at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, Agriculture Piet Adema stated in an update to the Tweede Kamer. In very rare cases, atypical BSE develops naturally and spontaneously in older cattle. It is not caused by contaminated animal feed, as opposed to classical BSE. It is the fourth case of atypical BSE ever found in the Netherlands, and only the fourth found in the European Economic Area in the past five years. 


As part of the investigation, 13 other cattle were killed, tested, and set to be destroyed. All but one were still located on the same Zuid-Holland farm. It includes one offspring, four animals that were born on the same farm within 12 months of the infected animal, and eight others that were kept close to the infected animal during their first year of life. This was handled according to European regulations meant to prevent contaminated meat from entering the food chain. 


Three offspring that are older than 2 years of age did not need to be killed according to the rules, Adema said. For the time being, the farm where the infected animal was found has been blocked. 


Classical BSE was linked to the reuse of animal proteins in animal feed about 15 years. Humans who eat infected meat can eventually develop Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which causes psychiatric problems, behavioral issues, and neurological symptoms. 


Every known case has proven to be fatal. Europe has banned the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed supplied for cattle as a way of preventing future cases. 

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