Japan: Mad Cow Disease Suspected

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A case of cattle infected with "mad cow" disease has apparently been discovered in Japan. The disease is said to have been found in the Chiba area, near Tokyo. If it is confirmed, it would be the first known case of the disease in Japan and in Asia. Mad cow disease, or BSE, had been confirmed only in western Europe until recently. Scientists believe BSE is transmitted through infected meat-and-bone meal fed to cattle and may cause the brain-wasting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans, which claimed about 100 lives in Britain. Japanese officials say they believe that the risk for an outbreak is very small because most of its imported bonemeal was used as a fertilizer. A spokesman for the European Commission's Tokyo office had said earlier in June that the Japanese government had blocked the publication of a Commission report saying it was theoretically possible for mad cow disease to break out in Japan. Scientists from the EU had given Japan a risk rating of three on a scale of one to four.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), September 10, 2001

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