Mad Cow Disease in the United States

First Europe... Then Canada... Now, the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the first-ever case of Mad Cow disease in America, in Washington state.

"The safety of our food supply and our public health are high priorities of this administration and high priorities of this department," said Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture.

A Holstein cow, from a rural Washington farm near Yakima, tested presumptively positive for B.S.E., which is also known as Mad Cow. The disease sickens bovines, eating away at their brains.

In past years it's been linked to about 130 human fatalities overseas. Although several tests were done on the sick Holstein, a tissue sample is being shipped to England, where officials expect to get the final word on whether the cow has B.S.E.

The first known case of Mad Cow in North America came this past May in Canada, where an Alberta cow was also confirmed to have the illness. But the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture emphasizes the risk of contamination to humans is very low.

"There is no need to alter plans, but to have a happy and healthy holiday season," Veneman said.

An investigation is underway to determine whether any meat from the sick animal reached store shelves.