Slovakia Says First Case of Mad Cow Confirmed

October 4, 2001 Reuters by Peter Laca
BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Tests from a German laboratory confirmed Slovakia's first case of mad cow disease on Thursday, proving fears that the brain wasting affliction has spread further into Eastern Europe.

The results verified local tests carried out last week showing a cow from a central Slovak farm had contracted BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Slovakia's Agriculture Ministry said.

Slovakia is now the second East European state to be hit by the deadly brain-wasting disease after two cases appeared in the Czech Republic this summer.

The other 211 animals in the herd with the infected cow are now in quarantine, while some have been marked to be destroyed.

``The Veterinary Office decided that 33 animals... born 12 months before and after the affected cow will be slaughtered and tested,'' said Dusan Magic, head of the State Veterinary Office.

Magic told a news conference the animals would be burned, and said officials were investigating the possible cause of infection, but added that it could have been the cow's feed.

He said the Veterinary Office would not introduce new anti-BSE measures, as those it currently enforces are in line with EU rules, but he said it had tightened criteria for allowing beef to enter the retail sector.

Since the appearance of BSE in the Czech Republic, Slovakia has devoted around $3 million to combat mad cow disease and has been testing all slaughtered cows aged over 30 months.

It also banned all beef imports from its former partner in the Czechoslovak Federation, but has since relaxed the measures.

As of last week, Slovakia had slaughtered a total of 12,316 cows. BSE has spread in herds in Britain, France, and other European countries. It has also been found in Japan.

Scientists believe it is transmitted through infected meat and bone meal fed to cattle and could cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (news - web sites) (vCJD), which is fatal in humans.

More than 100 people have died from vCJD since the middle of last decade, most of them in Britain.

Local beef consumption in Slovakia has already fallen since the suspected appearance of the disease last week, while Romania and Hungary have banned imports of live cattle and beef from Slovakia.

Agriculture industry officials have said Slovak producers should not be affected by import restrictions on meat, as its exports are minimal, but bans on live cattle could be a serious blow to farmers as Slovakia sells thousands of tonnes abroad each year.

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