Japanese Agriculture Officials Resign: Criticized for Mad Cow Outbreak

TOKYO-Two top agriculture officials in Japan have resigned after being publicly blamed for the island nation's recent brush with bovine spongiform encephelopathy (BSE)-also known as Mad Cow disease.

Hideaki Kumazawa, vice minister of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, and Takemi Nagamura, head of the Livestock Industry Department, will leave office this month after beef sales and national confidence in government response have plunged in the last six months.

In September, Japan became the first Asian country to have a confirmed case of BSE; two more cases have been confirmed since. The agriculture officials have been criticized for their reactions to the outbreak of the brain-wasting disease and for failing to keep one of the infected animals from being processed into animal feed.

The United Nations recently released a report suggesting Japan was at risk of having disease cattle because the country has imported large quantities of meat-based animal feed from European nations. Scientists believe Mad Cow infects cattle that eat feed made from other animal remnants. BSE causes holes in the brain, causing a plethora of neurological disorders and eventually death. The suggested incubation period in animals is 2 to 8 years.

Mad Cow was first diagnosed in Europe in 1986. Since, Japan has banned the importation of several European beef products and placed restrictions on blood donors to prevent the disease from possibly being transfused.

BSE is thought to cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans. This neurological disease, thought to be caused from eating tainted beef, has killed more than 100 people in Europe, with a few other victims scattered globally.

Information from www.sfgate.com, previous Infection Control Today reports

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