STOCKHOLM -- Officials in Sweden said there was a "serious chance" that two sick dairy cows found on a farm in the northwest are the country's first cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
In a statement, the country's board of agriculture said the farm where the cows were raised had been sealed off, and the cows slaughtered and removed to forensic facilities for tests, which could yield preliminary results as early as this week.
If confirmed, it would mark the first cases ever in the northern European country.
Earlier this month, Japan announced a cow on a dairy farm is also suspected of harboring BSE, which many scientists believe has a fatal human variant.
The investigation in the province of Chiba, west of Tokyo, is continuing as well, according to authorities there [see "Mad Cow Probe in Japan Spurs New Worry," SN, Sept. 24, 2001]. If the suspected case is confirmed, it would be Asia's first exposure to the disease.
While Swedish investigators have yet to determine what factors may have contributed to the suspected case, officials in Japan said they believe the cow in question had eaten tainted feed imported from Great Britain prior to a 1996 ban on feed components suspected of causing the malady. The ingredients had been stored and later turned into livestock feed.
This has been a particularly notable period for BSE, which wreaked havoc on farms around Europe in the past year and forced mass slaughter of livestock herds.