January 6, 2006 -- When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a massive scan of cattle brains for signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in June 2004, it was to be an 18-month program ending in December 2005. The objective was to give veterinarians a handle on how widespread this rare disease might be.
Here is the report card:
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, in an interview last week with Dow Jones, said the USDA will consult with its trading partners and scientists before scaling back testing.
At the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, spokesman Jim Rogers said by telephone that the official orders are to ?keep on testing? at the current rate. This rate is about 7,300 a week, drawn mostly from animals that died of natural causes and from older cattle sent to slaughter.
In November, Johanns told reporters he envisions a continuing U.S. BSE surveillance program that tests tissue from about 1,000 animals a week.
Experts in disease transmission have said that it appears that feed bans keep BSE from spreading. However, some scientists believe that spontaneous incidents of BSE are possible based on experience with other forms of spongiform encephalopathy that seem to occur without explanation at rates of one case in a population of one million animals or humans.
Reprinted in part from U.S. Animal Health Association News Alert