Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Fact Sheet

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Fact Sheet

June, 2001 World Health Organization

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a transmissible, neuro-degenerative, fatal brain disease of cattle. The disease has a long incubation period of four to five years, but ultimately is fatal for cattle within weeks to months of its onset. BSE first came to the attention of the scientific community in November 1986 with the appearance in cattle of a newly-recognized form of neurological disease in the United Kingdom (UK).

Source of the Epidemic


Cases of BSE

Measures Taken to Prevent the Spread of BSE

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) in Animals

TSEs are diseases characterized by spongy degeneration of the brain with severe and fatal neurological signs and symptoms. BSE is one of several different forms of transmissible brain disease affecting a number of animal species. Scrapie is a common disease in sheep and goats. Mink and North American mule deer and elk can contract TSEs. A neurological disease in household cats and in ruminant and feline species in zoos has been linked to BSE; most cases in such animals appear to have occurred in the UK.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)

World Health Organization (WHO) Work on TSEs and Advice on Research

WHO Conclusions and Recommendations to Reduce Exposure to the BSE Agent

For further information journalists can contact the Spokesperson's Office, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 2599. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. E-mail: All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features can be obtained on Internet on the WHO web site:

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