Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or commonly known as mad cow disease is a fatal degenerative disorder which infects the central nervous system of the cattle. It starts by destroying the brain tissue, giving it a sponge-like appearance when seen through a microscope. If humans consume this diseased cattle, they develop the human form of mad cow disease - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD. Unnatural proteins known as 'Prions' are found in brain tissue of infected cattle. They damage the brain and create small sponge holes which causes impairment within the cattle brain. Prions are found in the brain, spinal cord, eye and various other tissues in cattle and humans. These abnormal proteins are resistant to heat, ultraviolet light, radiation and disinfectants that usually destroy all the bacteria and viruses.
Prions don't cause infections in body parts, rather they encourage abnormal behavior of cellular proteins which leads to the following mentioned symptoms.
There are a number of symptoms of mad cow disease, as it continues to rise very swiftly in some parts of the world. Symptoms in humans and animals do not become visible as soon as they are infected. It takes some time for a human or an animal to show these symptoms.
- Early symptoms in humans are often psychiatric in nature. They suffer from serious mood swings and later develop anxiety.
- The disease may lead to dementia at later stages. It also leads to memory loss, concentration failure and damaged cognitive function.
- People suffer from insomnia and this often leads to mental depression and anxiety at later stages.
- Muscle coordination drops and victims suffer from blurry vision.
- Other body parts, including the heart, also fail to work. Extensive brain damage occurs resulting in a coma.
- The respiratory system stops responding, due to pneumonia or lung and bronchial infections. This may eventually result in death.
Diagnosis and Prevention
The most unfortunate aspect of this disease is that there is no vaccination or medication available to cure it. As research is still going on, a vaccination has not yet been developed. Certain medications are advised by doctors that may help control symptoms of this disease.
As there is no cure of this devastating disease, it is better to try preventive measures. People fond of cattle meat should shift to alternative meat products like fish or chicken or can even choose a vegetarian diet. Tourists traveling to countries where mad cow disease has been detected, should avoid consuming beef. They should also avoid having blood transfusion in foreign countries.
The United States is taking effective steps to ensure that mad cow disease doesn't victimize more citizens. To prevent it from spreading, the federal government has banned meat imports from countries where this disease was detected. This ban is imposed on meat products which are fit for consumption for humans, animals and pets.