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Possible new case of mad cow disease found
Updated: 2004-11-18 23:38

A second case of mad cow disease may have turned up in the United States, Agriculture Department officials said Thursday.

The officials released few details, saying it would be four to seven days before the possible case could be confirmed.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, attacks an animal's nervous system. People who eat food contaminated with BSE can contract a rare disease that is nearly always fatal, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The possible case comes 11 months after the United States had its first case of mad cow disease. Japan and other countries are still maintaining bans against U.S. beef as the result of the earlier case.

Suspicions about another case of the disease came because of an inconclusive test result, officials said.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country," said Andrea Morgan, associate deputy administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

She said the inconclusive results "are a normal component of screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive."

"It is important to note that this animal did not enter the food or feed chain," Morgan said. "USDA remains confident in the safety of the U.S. beef supply. Our ban on specified risk materials from the human food chain provides the protection to public health, should another case of BSE ever be detected in the United States."

In the only confirmed case, a Canadian-born Holstein was found to have been infected, but just that one case caused Japan and more than three dozen other countries to refuse U.S. beef. That hurt U.S. export sales and the farm economy.

Bush administration officials are now focused on trying to get those bans lifted and with establishing a national identification system for tracking livestock and poultry from birth through the production chain.

Such a system has worried producers who prefer to keep their records confidential or run a voluntary ID clearinghouse that would provide government officials with limited access.

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