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Meat from U.S. mad cow traced to 8 states, Guam

USDA official: Risk to consumers 'virtually zero'

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Washington state

Source: USDA
• Mad cow disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1986, peaking in 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases per week. 

• In 1996, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was detected in humans and linked to the mad cow epidemic. Eating contaminated meat and cattle products is presumed to be the cause.

• Both are fatal brain diseases with unusually long incubation periods, often lasting years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mayo Clinic
United States

(CNN) -- U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have traced beef from a cow diagnosed with mad cow disease to four more states and Guam in addition to the four states already announced, the department said Sunday.

Meat was sent to Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho and the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific, said Kenneth Petersen, a spokesman for the department's Food Safety Inspection Service, on Sunday.

Investigators are also trying to trace cows that entered the United States from the same herd as the diseased animal.

The cow was slaughtered this month in Washington state, and its meat was sent to two processing plants in Oregon. Meat also was shipped to California and Nevada, the department had said earlier.

The department has recalled about 10,000 pounds of beef that originated from Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. in Moses Lake, Washington, where the infected cow was slaughtered December 9.

Risk to consumers from the meat was "virtually zero," Petersen said.

"The meat per se, because it did not contain any spinal cord material, we think is a very low risk to consumers," Petersen said, adding that the distribution was "limited." The disease is believed to be present only in nervous system tissue.

Mad cow disease, known to scientists as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a brain-wasting disease that is usually transmitted to cows via contaminated feed and has an incubation period in the animals of four to six years.

BSE is linked to a similar human form of the incurable, fatal disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

There has been a small number of cases of that disease reported worldwide, primarily in the United Kingdom, among people who ate BSE-contaminated meat. At least 100 people have died worldwide, and outbreaks of BSE have led to large declines in beef consumption.

A number of nations have banned U.S. beef imports since the case was announced Tuesday, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, Mexico and China.

In 1997, the United States banned the use of brains and spinal cords, the tissues that carry the disease, in animal feed. But authorities have acknowledged that not all cattle owners followed the rules.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the case demonstrates the need for a national system to trace tainted meat in case of outbreaks. Schumer has introduced a bill that would require processed meat to carry such a tracking code, and called the discovery "a wake-up call."

Ron DeHaven, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief of veterinary medicine, said Canadian records show the cow -- a Holstein -- entered the United States via Eastport, Idaho, with a herd of 73 other cows in August 2001.

He said investigators have matched an ear tag applied to the cow at the point of export and removed from the sick cow at the slaughterhouse to records of a Canadian cow.

DeHaven said investigators hope to use DNA tests to confirm their preliminary determination that the cow entered the country from the Canadian province of Alberta.

"The investigation today is focusing on tracing the other 73 animals that presumably came into the United States in the same shipment with this positive cow," DeHaven said.

Brian Evans, chief veterinary officer with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said it was not yet clear if the cow that entered from Alberta was the same one as the animal that became sick, or even that the infected cow had come from Canada.

A cow in Alberta tested positive for BSE in May. Tests in England confirmed signs of mad cow disease. Eighteen farms were quarantined, but no additional cases were discovered.

After the diagnosis, the United States banned imports of beef from Canada. The ban was partially lifted in September.

Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s, and millions of cattle were slaughtered.

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