Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease” was only recognized in the 1980s, and most seriously affected the United Kingdom. What I would consider to be an outbreak peaked in 1992 and 1993 with over 36,500 confirmed cases and 1000 new cases a week. In 2004 there were just over a thousand. The disease can have a gestation period of 8 years, making it difficult to know of an outbreak until it is too late. There were two cows classified with the disease in 2003 in North America, and though it spiraled into a wide-scale import ban from other countries, I don’t think it is considered an outbreak. Since the feeding of cattle with meat by-products has ceased, numbers of cases has significantly reduced.
The last widespread, virulent outbreak of mad cow disease peaked in 1993 the United Kingdom, at which point “almost 1000 new cases per week” were identified (totally over 120,000 cattle by the end of that year). The disease has subsequently surfaced in North America, with the first identified cow diagnosed in December of 2003, According to the Center for Food Safety, by 2004 in the United Kingdom 180,000 cows had been infected with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and 143 people had been infected with vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). The most recent death related to vCJD was in January of this year, in Sweden.
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