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Diseases - Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Background on BSE

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986 and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988.  Over the following few years the epidemic grew considerably and peaked in the UK in 1992 at over 37,000 cases.  There have been over 183,000 cases to date (UK-wide).  BSE occurs in adult animals in both sexes, typically in four and five year olds.  It is a neurological disease involving pronounce changes in mental state, abnormalities of posture and movement and of sensation.  The clinical disease usually lasts for several weeks and it is characteristically progressive and fatal.

A major BSE testing programme has been in place in the EU since 2001, generating important information on the epidemic. Reinforced feed controls, considered effective in the UK from 1 August 1996, banned the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to farmed animals. Since 2001, EU controls have banned the feeding of animal proteins (with minor exceptions) to farmed livestock. These controls reduce the risk of cattle being infected with BSE.

In March 1996, scientists linked BSE to a new (variant) form of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) a progressive, fatal, brain disease of humans. BSE has also had a serious impact on the livestock industry. Everything possible should be done to eradicate BSE in cattle. Although the disease is declining rapidly, it is essential that all animals showing signs of BSE are reported and that feed stores are cleaned out regularly to remove any potentially contaminated feed.