Reports: Human Form of Mad Cow Disease May Have Spread to Russia : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Reports: Human Form of Mad Cow Disease May Have Spread to Russia Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The suspected death in northern Russia of a 29-year-old man from a human form of mad cow disease raised fears that efforts to contain the deadly ailment may not prevent its spread to other parts of the world.

Christian Charisius/Reuters Nov. 30: A butcher stores cattle carcasses before they are tested for BSE in Hamburg, Germany.

According to newspaper and wire service reports, a merchant seaman from the port city of Murmansk died Monday from the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as "mad cow" disease.

BSE, which leaves holes in the brains of infected animals, is believed to be transmitted when cattle eat fodder containing ground parts of infected animals. BSE is also thought to cause a form of CJD in humans who ate meat from infected animals.

Russia Seen Unable to Fight Epidemic

"It is not the first case of CJD in Russia," the Murmansk region's chief medical officer was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse, adding that the disease can be contracted in other ways apart from eating contaminated beef.

The news came only a day after European Union took its most drastic and costly measure yet to stem panic over mad cow disease by ordering a six-month ban on almost all animal products in fodder.

Russian consumers are already aware of the BSE epidemic and are concerned it may spread to their country. There are laboratories attached to many meat outlets where shoppers can have their food tested. But according to Russian newspaper Izvestiya, there is no laboratory in Russia that is able accurately to determine whether or not BSE is present in meat.

It is also feared that Russia, struggling with a weak economy and crumbling infrastructure, would be unable to impose the sort of tough restrictions on meat production and distribution agreed by the EU.

The EU's six-month ban is expected to cost $1.3 billion, but the ministers hope it will help return confidence in the beef industry.

CJD Always Fatal

BSE wasn't identified until 1986, but by the mid-1990s, Britain was seeing tens of thousands of cases a year.

Then in 1996, a link was established between BSE and a human form of the disease, a progressive crippling of the nervous system always followed by death.

Two people in France and 80 in Britain have died from the disease; 89 people across the EU have been infected.

The mad cow crisis reclaimed the spotlight two months ago after an increase in French cases and reports that tainted beef might have made it to supermarket shelves. It was exacerbated when the first cases in Germany and Spain were recorded, further indications that current measures to contain the disease were inadequate.

Sky News and the Associated Press contributed to this report

-- Martin Thompson (, December 06, 2000

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