Photo from would like to address the news of confirmed “mad cow disease” case in California.

Think back to a little less than a decade ago, when “mad cow disease” was first mentioned in the United States. The widespread panic that ensued following a presumptive diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease,” in Washington took over news headlines for weeks.

In 2006, the phrase “mad cow disease” came up again, when a cow in Alabama was confirmed to have BSE.

And then today, news broke that South Korea had suspended the sale of beef from the US following the confirmation of BSE in a dairy cow in California.

Some people may fail to remember why the panic ensued back in 2003 and 2004 – just that the term “mad cow disease” resulted in fear across the country. But the fear is valid, given the deaths of 150 in the 1980s and 1990s in Britain that were cause by BSE.

What is BSE and why should we fear it? What does it do?

BSE is a fatal neurological disease in cattle, and is related to something called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans, which is an incurable disease that results in the decrease of mental function and movement, and eventually, possibly death. Humans can contract the disease following the consumption of beef from an infected cow.

Should people be concerned? According to public health officials, people in the United States have a very low risk of consuming beef from an infected cow or contracting the illness, and no extra precautions need to be taken.

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