Can It Happen Here?

Panic over mad cow has already infected Europe. Now it's our turn

It is, by all accounts, a horrific way to die. First come mood swings and numbness, then hallucinations, uncontrolled body movements and finally a progressive dementia that destroys the mind as thoroughly as Alzheimer's disease--except that this illness can strike at any age.

No wonder Europe is terrified of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad-cow disease. The illness started attacking British cattle in the mid-1980s. Then it crossed the species barrier; a human version of BSE has killed more than 80 Britons since 1995. Then it leaped across the Irish Sea and the English Channel, afflicting cows in 12...

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