What is Mad Cow Disease?

Mad Cow Disease

Mad Cow Disease

The scientific name for mad cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). This disease primarily affects cattle, but an offshoot of this condition called variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) also affects people, especially very young people, seniors, or anyone with a pre-existing medical condition.

A severe BSE outbreak in the early 1990s affected about three million cows, mostly in Europe. In response, the United States blocked cattle imports from countries in the midst of a BSE outbreak. This prohibition extended to meat products used in human, animal, and pet foods. As a result, BSE and vCJD are extremely rare in North America.

Unfortunately, these diseases are usually fatal within about a year of infection. Additionally, since heat doesn’t kill infected prion proteins, cooking meat doesn’t prevent infection.

vCJD Symptoms

According to the CDC, this infection has killed four Americans. However, in each case, the agency believes the infection happened overseas. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to be mindful of some key nervous system symptoms, such as poor muscle coordination and unexplained depression.

These symptoms are somewhat generic. So, only an MRI can connect these symptoms with vCJD, as opposed to another illness.

Legal Issues Regarding Mad cow disease

Mad Cow Disease is extremely rare and hard to identify conditions, like vCJD, often involve medical misdiagnosis issues. During an examination, a doctor might not ask critical questions about the patient’s diet or recent travel.

Doctors have a fiduciary duty and because of the high duty of care, a personal injury can usually obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation could include compensatory damages as well as additional punitive damages. A damage cap may apply in some cases.

Landowners have a legal duty in these situations as well. If they know, or should know, that their cows are infected, they cannot sell them to anyone.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes symptoms like behavioral changes, unusual weight loss, and muscle coordination issues. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) includes recent outbreaks in the area. Since BSE’s incubation period is so long, most of these claims rely on circumstantial evidence.

To obtain compensation from a negligent landowner, a victim/plaintiff must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

mad cow disease Wrongful Death Claims

As mentioned, BSE and vCJD are normally untreatable and incurable. So, legal action doesn’t change the ultimate outcome. For that reason, many survivors hesitate to file these claims. That reluctance is understandable.

However, the fact is that an untimely death creates a significant financial hardship, both now and in the future. Survivors must pay final expenses, like burial and funeral costs, not to mention medical bills related to the decedent’s final illness. This hardship continues, as survivors struggle to replace the income the decedent provided.

Wrongful death claims replace these economic losses, at least in part. Perhaps more importantly, wrongful death claims hold negligent doctors, landowners, and other tortfeasors (negligent actors) responsible for the injuries they cause.

Mad cow disease is rare, but it’s real, even in humans. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.