We must learn from responses to such epidemics in the past if we are to succeed today. Such lessons will be difficult to craft, requiring expertise in culture as well as medicine, but need to be integral parts of our global response.
This recent case of mad cow disease could be an isolated case. It could amount to nothing more than a fleeting news item. That, certainly, is what the U.S. meat industry would like officials to think, and what it would like consumers to believe.
Cattle remains are still fed to chickens and the poultry litter is fed back to cows. In this way, prions -- the infectious proteins that cause mad cow disease -- may continue to cycle back into cattle feed and complete the cow "cannibalism" circuit blamed for the spread of the disease.
Let's hope that the newly reported case of mad cow disease in a California dairy cow will renew interest in closing the loopholes in feed regulations that continue to allow the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, blood and manure to farm animals in the United States.