Mad cow disease
Mad cow quarantine is extended to offspring
By Associated Press
Published December 27, 2003
WASHINGTON - U.S. agriculture officials said Friday they have quarantined the offspring of the slaughtered Holstein cow that tested positive for mad cow disease amid an intensifying search for the stricken cow's origins.
The government was trying to reassure the public about the safety of the U.S. food supply even as it confronted a wide ban on U.S. beef by countries that account for 90 percent of American beef exports.
The recall of more than 10,000 pounds of meat from the cow and others slaughtered Dec.9 at the same Washington company also was continuing.
The quarantine, which includes herds at two Washington farms, was imposed even though officials said transmission from mother to calf is unlikely.
One calf is at the same dairy near Mabton, Wash., that was the final home of the diseased Holstein cow, said Dr. Ronald DeHaven, the Agriculture Department's chief veterinarian. The other calf is at a bull-calf feeding operation in Sunnyside, Wash., DeHaven said.
A third calf died shortly after birth in 2001, he said.
"The reason for concern with these calves is that, even though it is an unlikely means of spreading the disease, there is the potential that the infected cow could pass the disease onto its calves," he said. No decision has been made on destroying the herds, he said.
The emphasis of the widening investigation is on finding the birth herd of the cow, since it likely was infected several years ago from eating contaminated feed, DeHaven said. Scientists say the incubation period in cattle is four or five years.
DeHaven called the investigation "a tangled web of possibilities," saying the cow's path could lead to other states or Canada.
Tracing the source of the infected cow could take days or weeks, he noted.
"If we're lucky, we could know something in a matter of a day or two," DeHaven said. However, he added, it is possible that officials may never definitively identify the herd or the source of contaminated feed.
Authorities want to know where the animals were transported. They have narrowed their search to two locations in Washington state where the cow could have been purchased, an unidentified livestock market and a farm where calves are raised.
Officials insisted there was no threat to the food supply because the cow's brain, spinal cord and lower small intestine - where scientists say the disease is found - were removed before it was processed.
Humans can contract a fatal variant of mad cow disease by eating infected beef, but experts say muscle cuts of beef - including steaks and roasts - are safe.
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