Calgary

Alberta reports rare case of atypical mad cow disease, no risk to human health

Alberta Agriculture Minister Nate Horner says an older animal has tested positive for atypical mad cow disease in the province.

Province's 1st case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in almost 6 years

Cattle pause as they graze winter pasture in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies near Longview, Alta., in 2004. Alberta reported a new case of atypical mad cow disease on Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Agriculture Minister Nate Horner says an older animal has tested positive for atypical mad cow disease in the province.

It's Alberta's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as BSE, in almost six years.

Horner says atypical BSE presents no risk to human health and is not transmissible.

He says the case is not expected to affect the market and quick detection demonstrates that inspectors and producers are dedicated to keeping the disease out of Canada's cattle herd.

This type of BSE happens at a rate of about one in one million cattle and has been reported six times in the United States, the last time in 2018.

Classic BSE is what caused previous mad cow epidemics, says Sabine Gilch, professor at the University of Calgary's faculty of veterinary medicine. But atypical BSE has a different story. 

Gilch says it's very unlikely that atypical BSE is caused by infection, it happens spontaneously in older cows with a very low frequency. 

To date, there is no evidence that it is transmitted to humans or from cow to cow. It's thought to be a spontaneous disease, and the same thing can happen in humans, which is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is leading the response and officials are to meet with stakeholders Monday to answer any questions.

With files from CBC's Jade Markus

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