OMAHA (DTN) -- A 6-year-old mixed-breed beef cow in Florida tested positive for an atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, USDA announced on Wednesday.
USDA stated the animal never entered slaughter channels, and at no time posed a threat to the food supply, or to human health in the United States.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the cow was positive for atypical H-type BSE. The animal was first tested at the Colorado State University veterinary diagnostic laboratory as part of routine surveillance of cattle deemed unsuitable for slaughter. According to USDA, APHIS and Florida veterinary officials are gathering more information on the case.
This case is the sixth positive case of BSE in the U.S. since 2003, and the first since an 11-year-old cow tested positive in Alabama in 2017.
The National Cattleman's Beef Association did not respond to DTN's request for comment at press time.
"As expected, the market has greeted the news with a big yawn," said John Harrington, DTN livestock analyst. "The scary days of BSE are long gone."
Classical BSE has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. That version of BSE largely is caused by feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered, infected cattle.
Of the five previous U.S. cases, the first in 2003 was a case of classical BSE in a cow imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical H- or L-type BSE.
The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, recognizes the U.S. as being a negligible risk for BSE. As noted in the OIE guidelines for determining this status, atypical BSE cases do not affect official BSE risk status recognition, because this form of the disease is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate.
Therefore, this finding of an atypical case will not change the negligible risk status of the U.S., and should not lead to any trade issues.
BSE is not contagious and exists in two types -- classical and atypical.
Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom beginning in the late 1980s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people.
The primary infection source for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997, as well as high-risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009. Atypical BSE is different, and it generally occurs in older cattle, usually 8 years old or older. It seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations, USDA said.
The U.S. has a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the country, the most important of which is the removal of specified risk materials -- or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease -- from all animals presented for slaughter.
The second safeguard is a feed ban that protects cattle from the disease.
Another important component of the U.S. system is an ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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