The taste of that juicy burger fresh from the grill might make your mouth drip, but will leave everlasting holes in your brain. The infectious disease has affected beef cattle, and may start to infect humans more drastically. To the cattle industry, an outbreak of mad cow disease is an ever-looming nightmare. This disease has been spreading rapidly across the globe, and many people are not protecting or learning about the disease. .
Mad cow disease is more correctly referred to as, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Mad cow disease (BSE), is a fatal brain disorder that occurs in cattle and is caused by some unknown agent. In BSE, the unknown agent causes the cow's brain cells to die, forming sponge-like holes in the brain. The cow behaves strangely and eventually dies. The connection between BSE and humans was uncovered in Great Britain in the 1990s when several young people died of a human brain disorder, a new variation of a rare brain disorder called Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (CJD), which typically strikes elderly people. The new variation was called new variant Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (nvCJD). Researchers discovered connections to BSE and nvCJD by narrowing down the following ideas. People with the disease had lived in areas where outbreaks of BSE had occurred in cattle. No victims were found in areas without the BSE outbreak. They also noted the brains of humans were similar to the cattle in that they had proteins called prions, but they were different from those of the original CJD. (http://www.bseinquiry.gov.uk/report/volume2/chapteb2.htm).
"Prions cause diseases, but they aren't viruses or bacteria or fungi or parasites. They are simply proteins, and proteins were never thought to be infectious on their own. Organisms are infectious, proteins are not. Or, at least, they never used to be." (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/madcow/prions.html).
The British government has concluded that BSE was probably the cause of nvCJD, and that the victims contracted the disease probably by eating meat from BSE-infected cows.