Bse bovine spongiform encephalopathy mad cow disease links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the cdc website the centers for disease control and prevention cdc cannot attest to the accuracy of a non federal website. Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy bse is a transmissible slowly progressive degenerative and fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of adult cattle the us . Bovine spongiform encephalopathy bse commonly known as mad cow disease is a neurodegenerative disease of cattle symptoms include abnormal behavior trouble walking and weight loss later in the course the cow becomes unable to move the time between infection and onset of symptoms is generally four to five years. The reason why so many people were concerned about mad cow disease a few years ago was because it was possible that humans who consumed infected beef could contract a prion disease since prions are almost impossible to destroy cooking infected meat at a normal cooking temperatures is not enough to break down the proteins. Bone and meat mix from infected sheep and fed to cows contained a mutated version of an abnormal prion how mad cow disease affects humans the human form of the disease caused by ingestion of meat infected with bse is variant creutzfeldt jakob disease this is also the result of abnormal proteins in the brain prions
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