Mad Cow Disease Fast Facts

A cow is silhouetted on a pasture near the Trans-Canada Highway north of Calgary, Alberta on February 13,2015. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed February 13, 2015, that a case of mad cow disease has been found in Alberta, Canada .

(CNN)Here's a look at Mad Cow Disease, a fatal brain disease found in cattle.


It has been linked to a fatal brain disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
    The official name of mad cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). BSE lesions are characterized by sponge-like changes seen under an ordinary microscope.
    Eating contaminated meat or other products from cattle (excluding dairy products) with BSE is thought to be the cause of vCJD.
    BSE is passed between cows through the practice of recycling bovine carcasses for meat and bone meal protein, which is fed back to other cattle.
    Both mad cow disease and vCJD are fatal.
    Symptoms of vCJD involve psychiatric symptoms and behavioral changes, movement deficits, memory disturbances and cognitive impairments.

    BSE Statistics (Cattle)

    (source: CDC)
    BSE cases in North America 1993-August 2018: 26 cases confirmed, 20 in Canada, and six in the United States. One of the infected cows that died in the United States was born in Canada. One of the infected Canadian cows was imported from the United Kingdom.

    vCJD Statistics (Humans)

    (source: CDC)
    Since 1996, 231 vCJD cases have been identified in 12 countries:
    United Kingdom - 178
    France - 27
    Spain - 5
    Ireland - 4
    United States - 4
    Italy - 3
    The Netherlands - 3
    Portugal - 2
    Canada - 2
    Japan - 1
    Saudi Arabia - 1
    Taiwan - 1


    1986 - Mad cow disease is first discovered in the United Kingdom. From 1986 through 2001, a British outbreak affects about 180,000 cattle and devastates farming communities.
    January 1993 - The BSE epidemic in Britain reaches its peak with almost 1,000 new cases being reported per week.
    1996 - The first case of vCJD is reported.
    1996-1999 - The European Union bans British beef. France continues the ban for an additional three years.
    May 20, 2003 - Canada's first case of mad cow disease is confirmed in an 8-year-old cow in Alberta. Canadian officials say the cow did not enter the food chain.
    May 21, 2003 - Mexico, Japan and South Korea join the United States in temporarily banning Canadian beef.
    December 23, 2003 - The US Department of Agriculture confirms the first case of mad cow disease in the United States. The infected cow is discovered on a farm in Washington State in early December. Japan, China and South Korea stop the importation of US beef. The infected cow was born in Canada, in April 1997 - just four months before the United States and Canada began banning the use of brain and spinal cord tissue in cattle feed.
    January 9, 2004 - The USDA says it will begin destroying about 130 cattle that were "herd mates" of the cow that tested positive for the first-ever US case of mad cow disease.
    January 26, 2004 - New safeguards against mad cow disease are announced by the Food and Drug Administration. They include banning chicken waste from cattle feed and barring restaurant meat scraps from being used in animal feed.
    January 28, 2004 - The Commodity Futures Trading Commission launches an investigation into whether some commodity futures market players may have known about the first US case of mad cow diseas