Thursday, August 5


Two revelations this week point to a wider scope for Mad Cow's impact: First, "Mad cow disease has been detected in two English cows born years after protective safeguards were put in place. The cases raise questions about whether the safeguards, which banned the inclusion of infectious animal parts in cattle feed, were strictly followed. The U.S. government has relied on similar safeguards to protect U.S. herds and consumers." If by "relied on" you mean "gently suggested and then implemented a handful as actual rules while dragging its feet on the others." Second, "Scientists have found evidence suggesting that the human form of mad cow disease might be infecting a wider group of people than seen so far," as some people who have it might not exhibit symptoms on the same timeline as others. "The latest finding means that forecasts need to be radically revised because they were based on the assumption that the disease only affects people with a particular genetic profile found in about 35 percent of Caucasians... In new research, an autopsy found the disease in a person whose genetic signature is shared by about 50 percent of Caucasians." So if I'm reading this right, that means almost half again as many people as previously thought are at risk, no?

Meanwhile, the USDA is changing their Mad-Cow testing announcement system as follows: "Until now, the USDA reported to the public whenever a sample of brain tissue yielded an inconclusive result from a screening test and sent the sample to a USDA lab in Ames, Iowa, for a final round of tests. Under the new protocol, two additional rapid tests would be conducted and only if one of them were inconclusive would the results be announced." This confused me for a while, as it seems intuitive that you'd want to announce the results only if they were conclusive, but in this case "inconclusive" means "in agreement with the initial inconclusive." I know, it's a little confounding, but maybe that's the idea.

UPDATE: Shhhhhhhhhh!! Don't look now, but there's another one of those quietly declared emergencies, this time in Alberta.

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