PULLMAN, Wash. — The U.S. government has closed the Canadian border to shipments of cattle and beef after confirmation of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the so-called “mad cow” disease.

The degenerative nerve disease was found in an eight-year-old cow in Alberta, Canada. It is the first reported BSE case in Canada in more than a decade.

Agricultural economist Thomas Wahl, director of Washington State University’s IMPACT Center, is available for interview on potential impacts to the U.S. economy and consumers. He can be reached at (509) 335-6653, work; (509) 332-7481, home; (509) 432-1629, cell phone; or by e-mail at wahl@wsu.edu.

Wahl says in 2002 the United States imported 420,321 tons of fresh and frozen beef from Canada. He expects the outbreak in Canada to reduce America’s beef supply, thus driving consumer prices up. At the same time, consumers may “back away from beef.”

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a chronic, degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system of cattle.
–First diagnosed in 1986 in Great Britain.
–About 95 percent of cases have occurred in the United Kingdom.
–Disease confirmed in native-born cattle in other European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.
–Not known to exist in the United States.

SOURCE: The BSE Inquiry United Kingdom Web site at http://www.bse.org.uk/

It is generally assumed that Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), first diagnosed in 1996, is caused by the transmission of BSE to humans. There were 137 confirmed or suspected cases reported in the European Union up to Jan. 1, 2003 — mostly in young people. Most cases have occurred in the United Kingdom (129) and some in France (6). One case has been reported in each of Ireland and Italy.
SOURCE: European Union Web site at http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/bse/index_en.html

A Canadian Press report is available at http://www.canada.com/national

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration BSE Contingency Plan is available at http://www.fda.gov/oc/bse/contingency.html