Nevada bans Washington cattle |

Nevada bans Washington cattle

by Regina Purcell, Staff Writer

The Nevada Department of Agriculture issued a temporary ban on imported dairy cattle from Washington and is surveying records to determine if any affected cattle is in the state, but locally, no measures have been enacted in response to the mad cow scare.

Last week, the USDA announced the first apparent case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, (BSE) discovered in Washington — the first such case in the United States. BSE or mad cow disease is found in the central nervous system and not in muscle tissue. The herd exposed to the BSE-infected cow in Washington will be destroyed after they are tested for BSE. Results could take up to two weeks.

J. Harvey Neill of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Minden said there been no directives from the national level to take precautionary measures. Spokesmen from local supermarkets, Raley’s, Scolari’s and Smith’s, all said there have not been any recalls or any measures initiated.

“Raley’s does not purchase any beef products fresh or frozen in areas under surveilance,” said Nicole Townsend of Raley’s corporate office. “This does not affect us. We chose our products wisely. We take food safety very seriously.”

Dr. David Thain, state veterinarian for the USDA, said the ban will remain in place until federal investigators determine where the infected cow was born and locate other animals from that herd.

“We will do whatever is necessary to protect Nevada’s cattle industry,” Thain said. “We just don’t know how widespread it is at this time. There is potential, but as of (Tuesday), we have no linkages in Nevada.”

Nevada is home to about 500,000 head of beef cattle and between 35,000 and 50,000 dairy cows.

Dr. Kenneth Petersen of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Tuesday no additional inspections had been ordered. Meat from cows that were too sick or injured to stand or walk unassisted would continue to be allowed to be sold for human consumption, provided there is no evidence of neurological problems.

BSE causes a disease in humans called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain disease with an unusually long incubation periods measured in years.

As of Dec. 1, a total of 153 cases of vCJD had been reported in the world: 143 from the United Kingdom, six from France, and one each from Canada, Ireland, Italy, and the United States. Almost all 153 vCJD patients were exposed over several years in the UK between 1980 and 1996 during a large outbreak of BSE.

It is believed the persons with vCJD became infected through consumption of cattle products contaminated with BSE. There is no known treatment.

To prevent BSE from entering the United States, severe restrictions are placed on the importation of live ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, and certain ruminant products from countries where BSE are known to exist. Feed made from cattle products are banned.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, the chief veterinary officer for USDA, held a Webcast on Wednesday, saying, “It’s important to realize that BSE is not a contagious disease. It’s not spread by contact, direct contact, animal to animal. Rather, it’s a disease with the primary means of transmission of consumption of affected proteins or proteins from an infected animal.”

The USDA’s said the affected animal likely entered the United States as part of a group of 74 dairy cattle that were imported through Eastport, ID, from Canada in 2001. Canadian officials are actively participating in efforts to trace this animal back to its birth herd.

– Regina Purcell can be reached at or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.