A dairy cow from Kanagawa Prefecture is highly likely to have been infected with mad cow disease, officials said Saturday.
The case was identified during the government-led initiative to test all cows for human consumption for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Final confirmation is expected when the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry hears the opinions of experts on Sunday.
If confirmed, it would raise the number of cows infected with the disease in Japan to 10. The previous case was that of a cow in Hiroshima Prefecture in early November.
Like six of the nine previous cows that tested positive, this cow, 7 years and 11 months old, was born in the spring of 1996, according to officials at the health ministry and Kanagawa Prefecture. It is the second BSE-infected cow found in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The cow was born in the prefecture on March 17, 1996, and had been recently purchased by a dairy farm in the city of Hiratsuka. It was taken to the slaughterhouse after it became unable to stand and dislocated its hip and broke a front leg about a week ago.
Typical BSE symptoms, including sensory problems, were not reported in the cow, according to health ministry and prefectural officials.
A preliminary test conducted Friday at a prefectural institute found the cow positive for the disease and a sample was sent to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The secondary test by the national institute confirmed that it was highly likely that the animal was infected with the brain-wasting illness, they said. The meat from the cow has been stored at a slaughterhouse and will not be put on the market, according to the ministry officials.
Some 60 cows are kept at the dairy farm where the latest suspected case was found, and prefectural authorities called on the owner to voluntarily halt shipping any of the animals after the results of the preliminary test showed positive. Once the final confirmation is made, they will place the farm under quarantine and conduct an inspection.
In a report on BSE compiled by a farm ministry panel in September last year, it was determined that cows born in the spring of 1996 had probably contracted the disease from meat-and-bone meal produced from infected cows before the manufacture of the feed was banned in October 2001.
The panel said the tainted feed was either produced from cows imported live from Britain during the 1980s or feed imported from Italy before 1990.