All About BSE: The Mad Cow Disease

Every time you take a bite of your burger or steak, one thing is for sure, your mouth would be delighted with all the flavors in the meat. Usually, these dishes are made from beef, one of the most common and tastiest meats used in cooking. As we all know, beef is the culinary term used to describe the meat of a cow or bull, and this type of meat has been a primary source of food for thousands of years ago. Today, there are different ways to cook beef, enhance its flavors, and make it a truly enjoyable meal. Furthermore, beef is also packed with protein and nutrients that help our bodies grow and become healthy. 

However, despite the several benefits you can gain from eating beef, you should also be aware of some situations wherein this meat could cause problems in our health. One of the most common problems related to eating beef is a medical condition commonly known as the ‘mad cow disease.’ The mad cow disease is a deadly medical condition of cows that could also cause harm to humans once consumed. In this article, we are going to look into the more profound definition of mad cow disease, as well as other information related to it. 

What is Mad Cow Disease

From the name itself, mad cow disease is a medical condition that affects cows. It is a progressive neurological disease, also known as BSE “bovine spongiform encephalopathy.” This medical condition attacks the brain, which is where its name was derived: bovine means that the disease is related to cows. Spongiform is the appearance of the brain after it is infected with the disease, while encephalopathy simply means it is a brain condition. 

As mentioned earlier, mad cow disease is a progressive neurological disease, which means it is progressing over time. When a cow gets infected with the disease, it will cause irreversible damage to the body that gets worse over the years. This disease primarily damages the cow’s central nervous system, making it categorized as a neurologic disease. The damage affects the cow’s brain and spinal cords, which causes various symptoms.

Even though this disease is already widespread, the main cause of it is still unknown. However, scientists believe that the disease is caused by a protein called a prion, which changes in an abnormal and harmful state that brings harmful effects to the body. The reason behind this abnormal change is still unexplained. 

Symptoms of BSE in Cows

Once the cow is infected with the disease, different symptoms would start to show in its body and behavior. Since the disease mainly attacks the central nervous system of the cow, one of the most common symptoms you would notice is its incoordination. When the condition started to have effects on the body, the cow would have problems in walking, or worse, standing up. This situation is normal for cows that have BSE since their central nervous system is damaged by the prion. 

Another symptom of the BSE is the change in the cow’s behavior. Once the cow has BSE, it would also have problems in its behavior, wherein it would sometimes act nervous or violently. A cow infected by BSE could potentially cause harm to humans because of their sudden aggressive behavior, which explains why it is often called “mad cow disease.” 

Interestingly, if a cow is infected with an abnormal prion, it wouldn’t be detected right away, and symptoms would not show in its body until four to six years. The long waiting process is called the incubation period, which does not show any signs that the cow is infected by the disease. However, once the symptoms start to kick in, it wouldn’t take long for the cow to become sick and eventually die. And since mad cow disease still has a lot of unexplainable phenomena, there is no cure available to treat it. In addition to this, there is also no available way to test a live cow and know whether it is infected with the disease. The disease could only be confirmed once the cow dies; during this time, scientists could check the brain if a spongy appearance has been formed.