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BSE and CJD: Chronology of a crisis

1986: BSE Identified

November
1986
A mysterious brain disease threatens the country’s cows.
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In November the disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - BSE - is first identified by the government’s Central Veterinary Laboratory.

The first case of the disease was found in the herd of West Sussex farmer Peter Stent, who had contacted vets after he found one of his cows behaving in an abnormal way.

Ministers are told about the new disease but at this stage it is not clear if it is transmissible. Vets and scientists are puzzled.

They conclude BSE is a "prion" disease like scrapie and suggest it could have been caused by infected animal carcasses or offal processed into cattle feed.

Prions are mutated proteins which cause fatal brain damage. The brains of sufferers become spongy and full of holes. Typical symptoms include loss of coordination and dementia.

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