Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy

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Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) is described by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as: "a rare illness that affects the central nervous system of ranch-raised mink. It was first detected in the United States in 1947. Since then, TME outbreaks have been reported in numerous locations worldwide, including the United States, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the republics of the former Soviet Union."[1]

TME is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) neurological disease family, which also includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and the different forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans.

TME an estimated 7 month incubation time, with death coming two to seven weeks after the first symptoms are exhibited. TME symptoms include mink becoming restless and aggressive; losing muscle coordination; exhibiting an increased tendency to bite other animals, objects and themselves; and becoming increasingly sluggish.

In 1965, scientists Dieter Burger and G.R. Hartsough published a study which pointed out that "every outbreak of transmissible mink encephalopathy had occurred simultaneously on more than one mink ranch, and in every case the affected ranches shared a common source of feed." The observation that the "1963 [TME] outbreak had occurred simultaneously on two separate [mink] ranches, sharing a common feed source that was limited to dead and "downer" cows - animals unable to stand which were therefore deemed unfit for human consumption ... prompted speculation that a spongiform encephalopathy might exist in U.S. cattle as early as December 1964."[2]

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