European Union authorities confirmed a case of mad cow disease, a brain-destroying condition, in the northern France Wednesday. The disease was last seen in the United Kingdom in a 2011 outbreak.
The EU lab said a “suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), detected in a 5-year-old cow, which died prematurely at a cattle farm in Ardennes, was confirmed on March 23 by the European Union reference laboratory,” the Local reported.
The suspected case had been reported to the European Commission and the World Organization for Animal Health, a veterinary watchdog in Paris. Mad cow disease was discovered in the 1990s and can be traced to a rogue protein called a prion. Rotting carcasses infected with the disease were found in the recycled feed of some cattle, causing the spread of the disease in the U.K. in the 2000s.
Cows only begin to show symptoms, such as lack of coordination, trouble walking and getting up, four to six years after contracting it. Once a cow starts showing symptoms, the disease cannot be stopped or slowed, and the animal will die within weeks to months.
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When the beef from those cows is consumed by humans, they can contract it. Consuming milk or dairy products from a sick cow cannot transmit the disease, however, according the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mad cow disease attacks the central nervous system. In humans it is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which before the mad cow outbreak was seen mainly in cannibal societies. Symptoms include depression and lack of coordination. In later stages it can cause dementia and eventually death.
The cow that died in Ardennes is suspected to be a singular case and the regulatory agencies involved in the case and the testing said the public has no cause for concern. “The detection of this case has no impact for the consumer,” the agricultural ministry said.