The Media And Mad Cow Disease

766 words - 3 pages

The Media and Mad Cow DiseaseMad cow disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is a disease that was commonly found in sheep until it recently crossed the species barrier into cows, where it began to infect people. At least that's what the media told us. Scientists like Joe Gibbs of the National Institute of Neurology in Bethesda, MD-on the other hand-are saying meat itself only carries a "minimal" risk of infection, and milk and dairy products are safe.Now for a little history on Mad Cow Disease: It was a disease prevalent in sheep for hundreds of years (Scrapie) and then it crossed the species border and appeared in cattle in Britain about 15 years ago where it is known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE. Mad Cow Disease is just a nickname-the cows do not actually go mad. The British government just recently decided that it has crossed another species barrier and appeared in humans as a disease known as Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease or CJD. CJD is a fatal, degenerative brain disease which takes from 2 to 30 years to incubate. There is currently no cure and in 90% of cases the infected person will die within a year. In the past year ten British people have contracted a variant of CJD apparently related to BSE; eight have already died.The World Health Organization (WHO) produced a fact sheet on the risk of BSE in humans on March 26, 1996. Their main conclusion is that "if the measures taken in the United Kingdom...were being strictly implemented, the risk of...possible BSE transmission to humans, would be minimized."The media has something else to say about this issue. Warnings throughout local news broadcasts and newspapers were saying that Mad Cow Disease was a serious threat. One article I found on the Internet called Mad Cow Disease "much more serious than AIDS." The heavily footnoted article finished with the challenge: "Do not take my word for any of this. Go to the library; check out Agricola, Medline, Biosis, Cab Extracts, the on-line catalog, anything. Time is of the essence." The web site that published it was an independent student-run magazine from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It had been published in 1994, well before the crisis in...

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