Updated September 2002
Intro to BSE
What is It?
History - Snowball Style
How'd This Mess Get Started?
Gimme Grass Baby
A Rose by Any Other Name
TSEs in Animals
TSEs in People
How Do You Get CJD
Meet the First Infant with CJD
Across the Border
Stronger Than Bear's Breath
How Much is Too Much
CJD in Canada
CJD - Not in My Town! Not!
Kept Like a Mushroom
Normal Human Brain Human Brain on CJD Continue
Dear Family and Friends,
Stan and I want to share that we use humor daily around our household. We pop jokes back and forth like zinging ping pong balls. In the course of our day, sometimes we examine some pretty grim subjects so we joke to lighten the load. Mad Cow Disease is something we all must consider, no matter the country where we live - and seriously consider - if we are not to become victims of this deadly disease. You will see flashes of humor in this series and it is meant with absolutely no disrespect to those who are suffering or have died from CJD. Instead, it honors the living.
It's one thing to think about the possibly of a terrorist attack dropping a nuke, say, on New York or see the fury of forest fires or the devastation of drought -- these are likely localized events. We can actually see where the problem is and view it more comfortably as "it's their problem". But wondering if your food is safe from a widespread, invisible killer strikes at the core of every single person. It sheds a whole new angle on preparedness and the need to store healthful foods.
Survivalists talk about living off the land by hunting wild game if conventional food supplies are interrupted. This was a common topic during Y2K countdown. In view of spreading TSEs - Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies - this solution needs major revision!
Over the past several years, considerable information surfaced about one type of TSE - Mad Cow disease - as it's known the world over. Media caused unfortunate confusion and fear by using terms interchangeably like "Mad Cow" and "CJD", the human form of the disease. People thought CJD is much more widespread than is the case. That's the good news.
So what are the facts, where do we stand? What is the danger to people? And the question you're secretly asking yourself - am I going to get it? That's what we'll examine in this 4-part series. Starting with the basics. . .
WHAT IS IT?
All forms of this disease whether in animals or humans are Transmissible
Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
(BSE) is the variety that occurs in cattle. In humans, the most
common form is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
In humans the disease causes people to lose the ability to think. They suffer memory loss, experience dementia and over a period of months, can no longer see, speak or feed themselves. At first there are small problems walking, but in only five or six months, victims can't sit up or get out of bed. Every shred of dignity has disappeared. Physically, the brain shows spongy lesions - "the Swiss cheese disease" pictured lower right. As the diseased cells die, they leave holes in the brain, then their attacking prions are released to gobble other cells.
CJD has been aptly tagged as "Alzheimer's on fast forward". No matter who or what contracts TSEs, it is always fatal.
HISTORY - SNOWBALL STYLE
The first case showed up in Sussex, England in 1984 and from that single cow, BSE grew unnecessarily into an epidemic crossing country, socio-economic, racial and even specie borders. Shortly before Christmas that year, veterinarian David Bee, examined a sick cow with strange symptoms - an arched back and big weight loss. Within six weeks, 133 cows died of similar symptoms including head tremors and loss of coordination. Seven months later, the UK Central Veterinary Laboratory made a formal diagnosis: spongiform encephalopathy. By this time, other cows showed the same symptoms. The epidemic had begun.1 As of December 18, 2000 4.3 million cattle in Europe had been slaughtered in an effort to halt the spread of BSE.
Harvard graduate and internationally known public health authority Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz and his colleague, Dr. Joseph E. Barber, state these deadly TSEs may bring a biological apocalypse making 'AIDS seem like an appetizer at a cataclysmic picnic.'2
HOW'D THIS MESS GET STARTED?
In 1984, most people had never even heard of Mad Cow disease. No one thought TSEs could move from one species to another or affect humans. Fifteen years later, we know better.
It's believed BSE resulted from feeding healthy cattle the remains of sheep killed by a very similar disease, Scrapie. The name stems from afflicted sheep becoming mentally unstable, experiencing intense itching and literally "scraping" the wool off their bodies.
In 1999, Dr. Len Horowitz showed it's likely that sheep first became sick from eating fungal infected grains.3
GIMME GRASS BABY
Cattle are naturally herbivores. They eat grasses and such, but to get higher milk yield and better growth rates, farmers fed cattle MBM (waste meat and bonemeal). MBM is made from a variety of tasty ingredients including: roadkill; euthanized pets; offal (brains, spinal cord, thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, intestines and their contents, and fecal matter), plus the diseased animal carcasses who died of TSEs. These "foods" are dropped into an enormous vat whole - feet, fur, face and everything in between - cooked up as a giant stew, then dried and turned into a brown powder farmers refer to as "protein concentrates."
In August 1997, due to public outcry against BSE, the FDA issued a ban on feeding goats, sheep and cattle to cattle. Cannibalism was no longer chic. Ground up dead horses, dogs, cats, chickens, pigs and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal matter of their own species and chickens are still on the menu. About 75% of the ninety million beef cattle in America were routinely given feed that has been "enriched" with rendered animal parts.4 That practice stopped completely in America two months ago. Canada banned this type food in 1997 and Australia stopped feeding sheep to cattle in 1996 but still uses powdered chicken, kangaroo, horse, pig, poultry and fish.
Using MBM was standard practice in Europe, too, and look at the mess they're in. "...poultry, pigs and sheep were also exposed to BSE in Britain from the cannibalistic feeding practices of the 1980s when dead sheep and cows were ground down into cakes of meat and bonemeal protein supplements. Speculation now surrounds whether those species might also be capable of harbouring symptom-free prion disease."5 Prions, or rogue proteins, are thought to cause TSEs.
In retrospect, feeding fatally diseased animals to healthy animals sounds beyond stupid. It's inconceivable that anyone could have thought this clever, let alone put it into practice. But they did.
© Text and Graphics, 2001 Stan and Holly Deyo, except where otherwise credited
Normal Human Brain
Human Brain on CJD