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First case of BSE reported in Switzerland since 2012

The cow (not pictured) was an isolated case Keystone

A case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been reported in a farm cow in central Switzerland, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). This is the first Swiss case of BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, since 2012. 

This content was published on February 6, 2020 - 11:55

The neurodegenerative disease was detected at the beginning of the year in a 13-year-old cow on a farm in Einsiedeln, the OIE said, citing a report from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO). 

Brainstem samples were taken for analysis and the animal was killed on January 23 - "because it was old and lame, not because it was ill", the cantonal vet explained. The samples showed that the BSE had been caused by a genetic mutation and not an infection from food.

The FSVO told that as this was an isolated atypical case no special measures were necessary and there was no risk of the disease spreading.

BSE initially appeared in Britain in 1986 and the first case of BSE in Switzerland – the first to be discovered on the European continent – was reported in 1990. The disease spread owing to cattle being fed animal meal which included misfolded proteins called prions. 

At the time, meat sales in Switzerland dropped by about 10% because of low demand for beef. 

Peak BSE 

The crisis over mad cow disease reached a peak in Switzerland in 1995 when nearly 70 cases were reported across the country. 

The veterinary office introduced fast BSE tests in 1999 to monitor cattle, and in 2001 the authorities imposed a complete ban on meat and bone meal in feed for livestock. 

In 2006 the Federal Court rejected a call for financial compensation by more than 2,000 Swiss farmers for losses incurred during the crisis over mad cow disease.

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