There is little chance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy occurring in the United States, according to a report released by an international consortium of scientific and professional societies in October.
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology summarized the latest information and disease statistics in its report on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
No cases of BSE have been found in the United States, although the disease has caused a major cattle epizootic in Great Britain and has been identified in nine other European countries.
The CAST report characterizes the overall risk of occurrence of BSE in the United States as "extremely low."
More than a decade ago, the United States began an aggressive BSE surveillance program. Several government agencies are involved and more than 250 federal and state regulatory veterinarians are trained to diagnose foreign animal diseases, including BSE.
"The cardinal point in BSE control is the willingness of veterinarians and renderers and members of the cattle industry and animal feed companies to implement and carry out measures such as disease surveillance and feed bans," said report co-chair, Dr. William Hueston of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. "The goal is to prevent BSE from ever entering the United States."
In March 1996, the British government announced a potential link between BSE and a new human illness, a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). No cases of this fatal human neurologic disease have been detected in the United States.
TSE diseases do occur in the United States, including classic CJD in humans, scrapie in sheep and goats, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and transmissible mink encephalopathy. Chronic wasting disease has also been detected in captive elk herds in several states.
A surveillance program is also in place for chronic wasting disease, which is found in free-ranging deer and elk populations in only 10 counties of north-central Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.
Information on CAST and its scientific reports are available at www.cast-science.org.