State Officials Announce Cow Tests Positive for Mad Cow Disease

State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is adamant there is no threat to human health. He says, "The main message I want to get to people is beef is safe. We can eat it as we did yesterday."

So, what is mad cow disease? It's also known as BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It is a chronic degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system of cattle. Mad Cow disease is not contagious. It cannot spread from animal to human or animal to animal which means the cow did not infect any other animals on the farm. According to state Veterinarian Tony Frazier, it's only transmitted through spinal and neurological tissue. He adds, "There is a fire wall in place that keeps that brain and spinal chord from the food even animals can eat."

The ban went into place in 1997. The infected cow was 10 years old. Officials say that shows this cow was most likely infected before the ban and that the procedures in place are working. "I feel comfortable as state health officer that the food supply is safe, the beef supply is safe and this animal does not pose a threat to the citizens of our state," said Dr. Don Williamson.

This cow was what they call a downer cow, which means it couldn't rise on it's own. Downer cows are not allowed into the food chain and must be tested according toUSDA protocol.

This is the third case of Mad Cow in the U.S. The first was in December 2003 in a Canadian-born cow in Washington State. The second was last June in a cow that was born and raised in Texas.

Reporter: Sally Pitts