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More Herds Quarantined in Canada

May 23, 2003|From Associated Press

TORONTO — Four more cattle herds were quarantined Thursday in Canada, bringing the total to seven, as officials broadened their search for the origins of North America's first case of "mad cow" disease in a decade.

Records indicate that the infected cow, from a herd in Alberta, may have been born in Saskatchewan, Dr. Claude Lavigne of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday.

If so, it would be the first case of a North American-born animal contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, which decimated the British beef industry in the 1980s and 1990s. The only previous case of mad cow disease in North America, in 1993, involved a bull imported from Britain.

The United States and several other nations banned beef imports from Canada after Tuesday's announcement that a cow had contracted the disease. The U.S. market is Canada's largest, accounting for more than 80% of Canadian beef exports. Only 7% of beef consumed by Americans is from Canada.

Three of the herds quarantined Thursday have calves that came from the herd where the infected cow last lived. Canadian investigators have removed all the cattle from the Alberta farm that kept that herd and were destroying the animals to examine their brains for possible cases of BSE. Test results were expected early next week, and the findings will determine if the other quarantined herds get destroyed.

Five of the herds under quarantine are in Alberta, the heart of Canada's cattle country, and two in neighboring Saskatchewan, Lavigne said. Despite the expanded quarantine, "there's no evidence at this time that the safety of Canada's beef has been compromised in any way," he said.

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