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Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The worldwide spread of 'mad-cow' disease

One case of the deadly "mad-cow" disease was found in a sick animal in Washington state and was being investigated, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said yesterday. The following are key dates in the spread of mad-cow disease, believed to be transmitted by contaminated meat-and-bone meal fed to cattle:

1986

November: Britain makes its first diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a new disease in cattle.

1988

July: Britain announces all cows known to be infected with BSE will be destroyed as a precautionary measure. Eventually, 3.7 million cattle were destroyed.

1989

Britain bans human consumption of certain organ meats, including brain, spinal cord, thymus, spleen and tonsils. The United States prohibits the import of live cattle, sheep, bison and goats from countries where BSE is known to exist in native cattle.

1990

The European Commission bans imports from Britain of cattle older than 6 months.

1993

December: One beef cow in Canada is diagnosed with BSE. Authorities say it had been imported from Britain in 1987. The animal carcass and the herd it came from are destroyed.

1996

For the first time, the British government admits BSE could be transmitted to humans in a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). The classical form is a slow degenerative disease in humans seen in about one person in a million worldwide each year.

March: Japan bans imports of meat-and-bone animal feed from Britain.

March 23: Fast-food chain McDonald's suspends the sale of British beef products in its restaurants in Britain.

March 27: The European Union announces its ban on British beef and beef products.

August 1: Britain's agriculture ministry confirms that mad-cow disease can be passed from cow to calf.

August 19: A British coroner rules that Peter Hall, a 20-year-old vegetarian who died of vCJD, contracted it from eating beef burgers as a child. The verdict is the first to legally link a human death to mad-cow disease.

1997

August 4: The Food and Drug Administration bans the inclusion of body parts from dead sheep, goats and cows in feed intended for live sheep, goats and cows.

December 3: Britain bans the sale of beef stripped from the bone as a precautionary move against the risk of mad-cow disease.

1999

August 1: Export ban on British beef is lifted after 3-1/2 years.

October 29: The European Commission's top scientists give British beef a clean bill of health.

2000

June 29: British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown announces that a cow, born after measures were introduced to eradicate mad-cow disease, had been found to have BSE.

December 7: The United States prohibits all imports of rendered animal-protein products, regardless of species, from Europe.

2001

September 10: Japan's Agriculture Ministry says a dairy cow tested positive for mad-cow disease in the Chiba area near Tokyo, the first outbreak in Asia.

2002

April 19: U.S. health officials report the first suspected case of vCJD in a 22-year-old British woman living in Florida. They say she most likely contracted the disease while living in Britain.

August 8: Health Canada says a Canadian man died in Saskatchewan from vCJD, apparently after contracting the disease in Britain.

2003

January 30: The World Health Organization warns that contaminated feed was exported to many countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and says they are at risk of BSE.

May 20: Canada says one cow in Alberta tested positive for BSE, Canada's first case since 1993. Canada Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said the animal "did not enter the food chain" and its origin was being investigated.

May 20: The U.S. temporarily bans imports of Canadian cattle and other at-risk livestock and livestock products.

May 21: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and other nations ban imports of Canadian beef.

May 22: Canada broadens its hunt for the origin of the Alberta mad-cow case to Saskatchewan and expands its quarantine to seven herds in the two provinces. U.S. officials say they are mulling whether to isolate Canadian cattle now in U.S. feedlots. Russia, Singapore, Chile and Indonesia ban imports of Canadian beef.

May 23: Canada expands quarantine to 13 cattle herds in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia in its mad-cow probe. U.S. National Farmers Union demands more cattle tests at the U.S.-Canada border before the U.S. ban on imports is lifted.

May 25: Canada says that 192 cattle in same herd as the BSE-infected cow from Alberta test negative for the disease. The Canadian beef industry says it is losing $8 million (U.S.) a day from banned beef and cattle exports and other sales.

May 27: Canada says Alberta's BSE-infected cow likely came from Saskatchewan, and a second test of the infected cow's herd mates is negative for BSE. Canada opposition politicians assail the Ottawa government for being too slow in testing cattle.

May 28: China and Brazil ban Canadian beef imports. Canada says it will test 600 more cattle in an attempt to track down the source of the infected Alberta cow's disease. The Canadian cattle industry says it is losing $20 million (U.S.) a day during the probe.

July 18: Canada introduces new safeguards against mad-cow disease to force its crippled beef industry to remove brains, spinal cords and other risky organs from carcasses, a move its top trading partner, the United States, said was key to lifting its import ban.

November 4: Japan says it has confirmed another case of mad-cow disease, the ninth since the brain-wasting illness was discovered there in September 2001 and the second in less than a month.

December 23: At least one confirmed case of mad-cow disease is found in an animal in Washington state, a U.S. Agriculture Department official says.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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