Japan Confirms 5th Case of Mad Cow
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Filed at 8:12 a.m. ET


TOKYO (AP) -- Japan confirmed its fifth case of mad cow disease Friday, raising doubts about government assurances that the outbreak since late last year is under control and homegrown beef is safe to eat.

Experts on Friday announced their final results after conducting a series of tests on the cow that has shown signs of the brain-wasting illness, a Health Ministry official Tatsuhiro Isogai said.

Japan's most recent previous mad cow case was found three months ago.

Earlier Friday, agricultural officials inspected the farm in the Kangawa state that borders Tokyo, looking for signs that cattle raised with the cow are infected, local government spokesman Taro Kawashima said. Officials also searched for evidence whether the rancher used meat-and-bone meal feed, believed to transmit the disease.

A 6-year, 8-month-old Holstein dairy cow from the farm tested positive for the disease during a regular inspection by health officials Thursday. A government research lab Friday ran more precise tests on samples taken from the cow's brain and spinal cord before the final diagnosis was made on the cow.

In announcing the results, Morikazu Shinagawa, one of the experts who made the diagnosis, said he believed the cow's disease was at initial stage or even incubation process, urging officials to conduct tests on cows that die from unspecified illnesses.

In September, Japan became the first country to find a diseased cow outside of Europe, where the disease has devastated cattle farmers. Two other cows tested positive in November, and a fourth case was confirmed May.

Tokyo has tried to reassure a jittery public that the country's beef stocks are free of the tainted meat. The Agriculture Ministry said Thursday it was considering continuing testing cows through the next fiscal year, beginning in April 2003. More than 1 million cows nationwide have already been tested.

Despite the tests, surveys suggest as many as one in four Japanese have stopped eating beef.

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to spread through cattle feed using recycled meat and bones from infected animals. The bovine illness is thought to cause the fatal human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Infected cows are slaughtered and incinerated.

Japan has banned the use of meat-and-bone meal as cattle feed, in addition to its extensive screening of slaughtered cattle.



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