IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Netherlands reports human 'mad cow' case

The Netherlands reported its first human case of “mad cow” disease but said Dutch beef is safe to eat due to the safety measures introduced after the disease ravaged farming in Britain.
/ Source: Reuters

The Netherlands reported its first human case of “mad cow” disease but said Dutch beef is safe to eat due to the safety measures introduced after the disease ravaged farming in Britain.

Doctors have diagnosed a patient at a hospital in the central town of Utrecht with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the government said in a statement.

It said European authorities had been informed and the inspector of health was investigating whether any others could have been infected, though the chance was extremely small as the patient was neither a donor nor recipient of blood or tissue.

Dutch media reported that the patient was a 26-year-old woman, but the authorities declined to confirm that.

Around 150 cases of the brain-wasting disease have been reported in the world, mostly in Britain, but also in France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States.

The disease is fatal and incurable. It is thought to be caused by eating food tainted with material from cattle with BSE or mad cow disease, a progressive neurological disorder.

Dutch beef safe, say officials
There have been more than 70 BSE cases in animals in the Netherlands since 1997, but the government said Dutch beef was safe because all cattle were tested for BSE, and brain and spinal material was kept apart and destroyed.

“Beef in the Netherlands is safe because all susceptible cattle are tested for BSE at slaughter,” the government said.

The Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest exporters of meat and dairy products and its livestock sector has undergone major intensification in the past few years with most animals raised on specialized farms.

The country has suffered a series of animal disease crises in the past decade, including swine fever, foot-and-mouth and bird flu, leading to the cullings of millions of animals.

Ab Osterhaus, a virologist on the Dutch Health Council, told the ANP news agency the patient was possibly infected by eating beef 10 to 15 years ago. He also said Dutch beef was now safe due to the safety measures introduced in recent years.

However, he could not rule out more cases of vCJD in the Netherlands although he said the chance was small.

The Netherlands announced strict new restrictions last year on blood donation over concerns about the transmission of vCJD.

Mad cow disease first emerged in British cattle in the 1980s and forced the destruction of millions of cattle.