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Japan quarantines cattle over mad cow
( 2003-10-08 16:38) (Agencies)

Japan has quarantined 604 cows to prevent the spread of mad cow disease after authorities confirmed that a 23-month-old bull had a new strain of the bovine illness, an official said Wednesday.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry ordered the isolation of all cattle raised with the infected animal, the country's eighth case, ministry official Keiji Fushimi said.

Fushimi said the ministry hasn't decided whether to destroy the cattle from Fukushima and Tochigi states, north of Tokyo and isn't ruling out the possibility that quarantine numbers could rise. For now, the cows are being held on the farms where they were bred, he added.

The latest discovery raises questions about tighter screening procedures implemented since Japan's first case was diagnosed in September 2001.

The bull, which tested positive for the disease on Sept. 29, was the youngest animal to be found here with the fatal brain-wasting disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The other infected cattle, the most recent case in January, were five years old.

Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei said Tuesday that follow-up tests by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases revealed a possible new strain of the disease. Within hours, officials in northern Ibaraki prefecture, where the cow had been screened before it was to be slaughtered, incinerated the animal.

The case showed heightened resistance to certain enzymes, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Officials were considering giving more vaccinations to cattle and possibly adjusting them to fight the new strain, it said.

Since 2001, only three cows younger than 30 months have tested positive for the disease in Europe, underscoring the rarity of the latest discovery.

Japan was the first country to find an infected cow outside of Europe, where it has devastated cattle farms. Tokyo has since banned the use of meat-and-bone meal in cattle feed.

Mad cow is thought to cause the fatal human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

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