article by Andres Vargas and Jakob Saucier
edited by Sofia Albert
MAD COW DISEASE
-What is it?
Mad Cow Disease is a dangerous, corroding disease that mainly affects cows, but can be transferred to humans. Mad Cow Disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE for short, is caused by proteins called prions that damage nervous tissue gradually, which leads to a slow build up of symptoms, and eventually damages the brain and spinal cord enough, that the infected organism develops neurological problems, becomes mentally handicapped over time and eventually passes away. Humans experience the same symptoms as cattle do when affected by Mad Cow Disease, they are just diagnosed with a different disease because BSE is a disease that affects cattle, and vCJD affects people. Even though it slowly kills the nervous system, there is no known treatment for BSE, thus the infected have no hope for survival. BSE is transmitted only through infected flesh, it cannot be transmitted through air, dairy products of infected cows, or close proximity of BSE. In the 90's, Britain had a mad cow disease outbreak, but after changing the regulation of handling cows, the outbreak was contained and the numbers of BSE slowly went down. The way it spread was that parts of the cow that were not used for human consumption were used to make animal feed, and it spread to other animals. Cooking infected meats do not terminate the disease, thus humans got infected as well. However, this is a new disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD for short. vCJD only affects 1 in a million people, and only 231 people were ever diagnosed with vCJD as of August 8, 2016. Both BSE and vCJD are dormant for a period of time, as little as six months in people, and can stay dormant for up to 5 years in cattle.
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