Spain Confirms Second
Case Of Mad Cow Disease
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain confirmed its second mad cow case on Thursday amid rising consumer concern about the disease which has surfaced in four European countries.
Two weeks ago Spain detected a first cow suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy in northwestern Galicia region. The finding coincided with Germany's first BSE case and news that tainted beef may have reached French supermarkets.
The human form of the brain-wasting disease -- believed to be spread by eating contaminated beef -- has killed more than 80 people in Britain and two in France since 1996.
When Spain's first case emerged last month, officials said they awaiting results of a suspected second case in Galicia, which was confirmed on Thursday.
``This case presented lots of doubts but the final report indicates that it is a case of the disease,'' Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete told a news conference.
Spanish appetite for beef has slumped since news of the country's first mad cow case broke, with sales down 50 percent over the past two weeks, according to a survey by a national consumer group.
The affected cows were from separate herds in different provinces of the Galicia region. In all, some 83 cattle from Galicia, many from the two herds affected, have also been tested and all were found negative.
``We can take it as a positive sign that the other cattle weren't affected,'' Arias said.
News reports say 46 cattle farms in Galicia have been quarantined as officials attempt to halt the spread of BSE.
The Organization of Small Farmers said it was worried about the risk of further cases and accused the government of failing to take quick action.
``This news came as no surprise to us,'' Fernando Moraleda, General Secretary of the group told Reuters. ``Spain was a country at risk but it failed to implement enough preventive measures to keep the disease at bay.''
``Elvira'' And Herd Destroyed
The latest case involved a cow whose pregnant grandmother was imported from Austria in 1987. The animal, named Elvira, was born in Spain in 1995 and was destroyed along with the 82 other tested animals, Arias said.
The previous case was of a cow born in Spain of Dutch origin, Arias said.
Scientists believe mad cow disease is transmitted through contaminated animal-based feed, but others say predisposition to BSE might be passed genetically.
On Monday, the 15 European Union countries decided to impose a blanket ban on using meat and bone meal in animal feeds.
Plans to provide financial support to affected farmers in Spain would be decided after the European Union clarifies how it will deal with the problem, Arias added.
But Moraleda pushed for state assistance for Spanish farmers struggling for their livelihoods.
``The small farmers are the victims of the outbreak. They are suffering most,'' he said.

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