Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorSo you hear that a cow in California was found to have “Mad Cow” Disease.

Does that mean it’s dangerous to eat a burger? Or drink a glass of milk?

First, a quick bit on “Mad Cow” …

It actually stands for BSE, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, a disease where the brain literally gets spongy — and in essence, melts.

There was a big scare about BSE back in 1993 in England, where a bunch of people ate contaminated beef and developed the human variant of BSE — in other words, their brains slowly dissolved away.

Frightening for sure.

So let’s fast forward to 2012. These days, cattle are screened for BSE, fed a little differently, and the rate of BSE has dropped like a rock.

In 1992, there were 37,311 cases of BSE detected. That’s a lot of beef that could infect humans. Last year, that number dropped worldwide to 29.

In the United States, there have been four cows that have now tested positive for BSE since 2006 — that’s not that many.

More importantly, the number of humans in the U.S. who have gotten sick with this illness? Zero.

And that’s the bottom line with this situation.

This is a dairy cow that was screened for BSE before it could move through the food chain. Plus, it was a dairy cow and therefore never intended to be made into burgers. Plus, you can’t transmit this germ through milk.

So, eat your burger. Drink your milk. And don’t worry about Mad Cow. But don’t forget to worry about your waistline and your cholesterol.


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