(NaturalNews) Mad cow disease, more correctly known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a transmittable disease that affects the nervous systems of cows. The human version of this disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), is thought to be contracted by consuming beef products that contain parts of an affected animal's nervous system, such as the spinal cord and brain. As cattle processors seek to maximize their profits, the possibility of seeing a rise in the incidences of mad cow disease increases greatly.
Symptoms of mad cow disease
In many cases, the early symptoms of mad cow disease mimic other, more common ailments, making diagnosis difficult. In fact, according to web resources, it is only in the latter stages of the disease that diagnostic testing can accurately pinpoint the abnormalities which positively identify the disease. At that point, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to confirm suspicions of mad cow disease.
Loss of coordination and depression are early signs of vCJD, the result of exposure to contaminated animal nervous system tissue. Later, this always fatal disease causes dementia, further derailing the possibility of a correct diagnosis. Typically, it takes about 18 months from the first signs of the disease for it to run its course, resulting in death.
Unknown incubation period
According to a study in The Lancet, Great Britain is seeing an increase of vCJD. This increase amounts to 23 percent for each year since 1994. In trying to predict the potential and severity of an epidemic of this disease, researchers pointed to their inability to provide accurate numbers. This centers around the fact that they do not know how long the disease can lie dormant after a person has been exposed. Scientists are not able to accurately predict if an epidemic will occur, how large the epidemic will be or when the epidemic will peak. Some scientists believe the incubation period could be up to 20 years.
Deaths increasing faster than onset
For reasons that they do not quite understand, the researchers who conducted the study, scientists from Britain's National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit, along with researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that the deaths from vCJD are increasing at a faster rate than the diagnosis of the disease.
According to a report released by the Statistics Unit of the Centre for Infections, a part of the Health Protection Agency, there were 176 cases of vCJD from 1994-2012. All of those people have died as a result of the disease. Though the actual number of those who have been diagnosed and who have died is rather small compared to other diseases, it is still increasing at a rate that alarms researchers. Given the popularity of beef products around the world, it can only be concluded that this disease will continue to take lives in the years ahead. Sources: