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Mad Cow Disease Found in Washington

In the first reported case of mad cow disease found in the US, investigators have traced the infected cow to the northwest corner - Washington state. The cow is known to come from one of two livestock markets there. The markets have not been identified. There are around 500,000 beef cows in Washington state.

The public should NOT be at risk, because the brain and spine - the areas that carry the disease - were removed from that cow before it was processed. The regular cuts of meat from a cow - even an infected one - are safe for consumption. The recalls are being done simply as a precaution.

Mad cow disease - Bovine spongiform encephalopathy - first gained its fame when cases broke out in Britain in 1985. The disease is caused when cows are fed the brains of other infected cows and then catch the disease themselves. This feed is officially illegal in the US and has been since 1997.

Humans do NOT get mad cow disease. Instead, if they eat infected spine or brain area, they can come down with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Despite the huge press about mad cow disease, only 153 humans have come down with the disease since it has been tracked, worldwide. In comparison, 211 people died from West Nile Virus in the US in 2003 alone - and that was considered a tiny number.

Canada was quick to ban imports of all US beef. In May when Canada had a case of mad cow disease in Alberta, the US ban on their beef hurt their sales. The Canadians have around 4 million beef cows, while the US has around 34 million beef cows. Of these, around 5.5 million are in Texas alone. So our banning Canadian beef would be akin to Canada banning all Texas beef. Instead, even though Washington only has 500,000 beef cows, the Canadians have banned all 34 million cows worth of beef. A few other countries have followed suit.

With the US exporting $2.6 billion dollars of beef each year, and only a single cow having the disease, the likelihood of having any risk at all is far less than being struck by lightning twice. It is always good to think about risks in your life, but the risk of getting mad cow disease from US beef is so remote as to be moot. If you want to worry about your health, think about exercising 3 times a week, not smoking, avoiding all junk foods and sodas, and taking your vitamins daily!

Washington Mad Cow Linked to Canada

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