‘Mad Cow Disease may have Reached Arab States’
Mad cow disease might have reached the Arab world, but there is no hard evidence of it yet, a senior official of the Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.
If mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has arrived in Arab states, its presence would be "not too much" compared to Europe, Andrew W. Speedy told The Associated Press at the end of a four-day conference on the sickness in Cairo.
Mad cow disease destroys the brains of cattle, and is believed to be spread through feeding cattle with the ground remains of sheep suffering from a similar brain-wasting ailment. It is suspected to cause a brain-wasting sickness in humans known as Creutzfeld-Jacob disease that has been blamed for the death of more than 80 people in Britain.
An outbreak of mad cow in Britain in the 1990s led to a global ban on exports of British beef. The ban was lifted in 1999. Other European countries, such as France, have suffered much smaller outbreaks.
Speakers told the conference, which brought together scientists from 18 states, that some Arab countries had reported no case of mad cow disease simply because they lacked the sophisticated technology and training to detect it, said the AP.
The lack of detection did not mean the disease was not present in their territories.
Speedy said the conference recommended that Arab countries set up detection networks to evaluate the situation.
"If there are no (mad cow) infected cattle, they should measure it, prove it and that's the best way to avoid a spread out of this disease," Speedy said, quoted by the agency.
In a concluding statement, the conference spelled out 10 steps that nations should take to prevent outbreaks of mad cow disease.
Speedy said the conference, the first of its kind in the Arab world, had been sited in the Middle East specifically because countries outside Europe and the United States needed to become aware of the potential danger of the disease.
Asked if mad cow was widespread in Arab countries, Speedy said: "Nowadays we can expect that the spread is not too much, but maybe these countries imported infected cattle."
"If we wait like in Great Britain until most of the cattle become infected, then this is really a crisis situation which is very difficult to manage," he warned.
Within the same context, Al-Ahram daily reported Saturday that a group of veterinarians will be dispatched to Sudan soon to examine if cattle, to be exported to Egypt, are free from the Mad Cow disease.
Agriculture Minister Yusef Wali assigned Dr. Fawzi Qanddel to head the group to examine the cattle, said the paper – Albawaba.com
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