Cluster Of Three BSE
Cows Found On
Farm In Wales

By James Meikle
Health Correspondent
The Guardian - UK
A cluster of three BSE cases found in relatively young cows born on a farm in Wales is being studied by scientists.
It is the first time for many years that three animals born at the same place within a short time of each other have been confirmed with the disease, which wreaked havoc on Britain's agriculture and forced safety controls for food, blood transfusions and operations as scores fell victim to BSE's fatal human form.
The cases on an unidentified farm in Dyfed are among the youngest in recent years, and came to light days after farmers were warned by the government not to be complacent over BSE, cases of which are falling at 50% a year. There were 309 reported last year, as against 37,000 in 1992. So far this year there have been 88. In all, there have been about 180,000 cases confirmed since 1986, although hundreds of thousands more infected animals are thought to have been slaughtered for food before the scale of the crisis was apparent. In March European food safety officials revised down the BSE risk in British cattle from high to moderate.
Scientists are trying to assess whether all three cows, aged 36 to 43 months, were infected by the same route, possibly contaminated feed imported after controls banning all ingredients from other mammals in cattle feed began in Britain in summer 1996.
One case was identified more than two months ago. The two others, among animals born or raised near it that were slaughtered as a security measure, were only confirmed on Friday. It is the first time three cases born after 1996 have been linked to one farm, while the three-year-old is the first BSE case born as late as 2002 in the whole of Europe despite the disease taking longer to emerge elsewhere.
Feed controls across the rest of the EU were not tightened until September 2001 following the later crises in other member states. Some experts believe that containers carrying feed between countries were not always thoroughly cleaned between trips, allowing cross contamination.
The cluster will not delay moves to lift a ban on animals over 30-months-old entering food, because risk assessments assumed there would be a trickle of BSE cases in animals born after 1996 until into the next decade. This should be approved later this year, once government advisers are satisfied that tests for BSE at abattoirs will be rigorous.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005,2763,1495453,00.html



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