The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that the second of two bovine spongiform encephalopathy confirmatory tests conducted on an Alabama cow has returned a positive result.
Earlier this week, USDA announced that an Alabama cow was positive for BSE after receiving the results of a Western blot confirmatory test. APHIS' National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, which conducted a second confirmatory test, the immunohistochemistry, received positive results today. Under APHIS protocols, if either the IHC or the Western blot returns a positive result the animal is considered positive for BSE.
APHIS is currently conducting an epidemiological investigation into the animal's origin in order to attempt to trace the animal to its place of birth. It had been on the Alabama farm less than a year. One of the first steps in this investigation will be the recovery of the carcass for examination to allow APHIS investigators to directly examine the breed and age of the animal as well as check the animal for any form of identification such as ear-tags. The recovery will be completed within the next day.
The cow, initially reported to be a Santa Gertrudis, is now believed to be a red crossbred (possibly crossed with a Santa Gertrudis or similar breed). This animal was non-ambulatory on the farm and examined by a local, private veterinarian. The veterinarian returned to the farm the following day, euthanized the animal and collected a sample, which was submitted for testing. The animal was buried on the farm at that time.
This animal did not enter the animal or human food chain, in accordance with USDA protocols. Human and animal health in the United States is protected by a system of interlocking safeguards, which ensure the safety of U.S. beef. The most important of these safeguards is the ban on specified risk materials from the food supply and the Food and Drug Administration's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban.
As part of USDA's BSE enhanced surveillance program, more than 650,000 samples have been tested since June 2004. Throughout this effort, APHIS has noted the likelihood of finding additional cases of BSE. To date, only two of these highest risk animals has tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program, for a total of three cases of BSE in the United States. The enhanced surveillance program was designed as a one-time, intensive effort to provide a snapshot of the U.S. cattle population, in order to determine the prevalence of BSE in this country. This second case does not change the fact that BSE prevalence in the United States remains extremely low.
APHIS will continue to work closely with the state of Alabama to learn more about this animal's history, and the results of our epidemiological investigation will be shared with the public. All animals of interest will be tested for BSE.