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Fourth mad cow case detected in US

(Xinhua)

11:10, April 25, 2012

WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday announced its fourth mad cow case found in central California, stressing that the animal with the disease did not enter food chain and there was no threat to beef or milk.

"The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the nation's fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as 'mad cow disease') in a dairy cow from central California," the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement.

The carcass of the animal is being held under state authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed, and "it was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health," the department said.

Officials are still trying to determine how the cow was infected. The department said the finding was an atypical case of mad cow disease, which is very rare. Atypical cases do not come from eating infecting animal feed.

The department said it is sharing laboratory results with international animal health reference laboratories in Canada and England, which have official World Animal Health reference labs.

"These labs have extensive experience diagnosing atypical BSE and will review our confirmation of this form of the disease," it said.

Mad cow disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. The disease may be most easily transmitted to human beings by eating food contaminated with the brain, spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcasses. Milk does not transmit the disease.

The first US mad cow disease was found in December 2003 in a cow imported from Canada to Washington state. Two subsequent cases were found in cows born and raised in the United States, one in Texas and one in Alabama. The animals never entered the food chain.

The initial cases of mad cow disease caused Japan and other countries to block US beef shipments. In some cases, trade has yet to resume to pre-mad cow levels.

In the year following the discovery of the 2003 case, US shipments of beef plunged 82 percent to 460.3 million pounds as dozens of countries closed their borders to exports, government data show. Nations like Japan have maintained some restrictions on US beef imports ever since.

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