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Farm ministry investigators will descend on Wakayama Prefecture and Hokkaido in response to the discovery of Japan’s sixth case of mad cow disease, the ministry said Monday.

A Holstein born in Hokkaido and then transferred to a farm in Wakayama was confirmed Sunday by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo as having mad cow disease. The animal was slaughtered Friday.

The investigators will try to pinpoint the cause of the infection and gather information to prevent a further spread of the disease, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

The latest cow with the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was born in 1996 in the town of Shibecha, Hokkaido.

On Monday evening, a farm cooperative in Shibecha announced that the cow had been fed the same milk substitute manufactured at a factory in Gunma Prefecture as the five other cows confirmed as having the disease.

Of the six cows, which were born between December 1995 and April 1996, four were born in Hokkaido and one each in Gunma and Kanagawa prefectures.

The first case was discovered in Chiba Prefecture in September 2001.

The latest case emerged as beef consumption was beginning to pick up after the initial domestic outbreak caused a sharp drop in sales.

Earlier in the day, the ministry convened a meeting of senior officials, including Senior Vice Minister Naoto Kitamura and Vice Minister Yoshiaki Watanabe.

Kitamura told the meeting, “We should take adequate measures to prevent people from developing anxiety and to keep farmers from losing the will to breed cows, by using our experience gained in the past five cases.”

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