A Mini History of Mad Cow Disease (BSE)

Having taken a little break from posting, Dr Geoff is back with a bang! Over the next few posts Dr Geoff will be dealing with BSE or, as it is widely know, Mad Cow Disease. This first post gives a bit of background information about the disease before Dr Geoff delves into the causes, it’s impact and where we are now.

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In the spring of 1996 a sombre government minister finally admitted that several young people had died from a new brain disease (variant CJD) acquired through eating beef contaminated with BSE. Claims that hundreds of thousands of young people might die of this disease and that in the early years of the new millennium hospices could be overflowing with terminally ill victims of this disease affected the mood of the whole nation and produced what amounted to almost national panic. For several years it was impossible to predict the size of the human epidemic because symptoms may not appear until 20 years or more after infection and infected people cannot be identified until symptoms appear. There have now been 160 deaths from variant CJD. The human epidemic peaked in 2000 with 28 deaths and is now thankfully petering out with 5 deaths in 2006 and total deaths are unlikely to exceed 200. The cattle epidemic of BSE is now also all but over with just a handful of cases in 2006; it peaked in 1992 when around 37,000 cases were recorded.

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Watch out for Dr Geoff’s next post where he explains what Mad Cow Disease is and what caused it.

Don’t forget to like, follow and comment – Dr Geoff loves to have feedback on his posts and will respond to any question you might have!

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