Rapid rate of decline encouraging
Cases of Bovine Spongiform Encepalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow
disease” worldwide are declining, according to the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO). They have been dropping at
the rate of some 50 percent a year over the past three years, the
Organization said today.
Amid the current international alarm over avian flu, it is good
news that the battle against another worrying disease is being
In 2005, just 474 animals died of BSE around the world, compared
with 878 in 2004 and 1646 in 2003, and against a peak of several
tens of thousands in 1992, according to figures collected by the
Paris-based World Animal Health Organization (OIE), with which
FAO works closely.
Only five human deaths resulting from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease (vCJD), believed to be the human form of BSE, were reported
worldwide in 2005. All of them were in the United Kingdom – the
country most affected by the disease – where nine deaths
were registered in 2004 and 18 in 2003.
Vigilance still needed
Andrew Speedy, an FAO animal production expert, commented: “It
is quite clear that BSE is declining and that the measures introduced
to stop the disease are effective. But further success depends
on our continuing to apply those measures worldwide.”
FAO insists on the importance of a scientific approach to detect
and control the disease, ensuring it is eradicated in affected
countries – and kept out of unaffected ones.
FAO, together with Swiss experts, has been running courses for
specialists from countries as far afield as Serbia, Egypt, Vietnam,
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay
on BSE diagnosis, surveillance and prevention in the animal feed
and meat industries.
Also vital, said Speedy, is a tracking system that allows animals
to be identified all the way from birth to shopping basket. This
has been adopted across Europe but has yet to be implemented partially
or fully in a number of other countries.
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