Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first confirmed in 1986 in the UK and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988. The UK epidemic peaked at over 37,000 cases in 1992 and there have been over 183,000 cases to date. 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.