Identification of the Characteristics and Risk Factors of the BSE Epidemic in the Netherlands
It is generally accepted that the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic is transmitted by feed contamination with meat and bone meal (MBM). Whether in some cases substances other than MBM have caused the spread of this disease cannot be excluded at present. Detailed knowledge about country-specific transmission routes and relevant risk factors is important to perform accurate risk analyses and to control BSE. In the present study all possible information of Dutch BSE cases was collected. The general epidemiological data were first used for a comprehensive descriptive analysis of the Dutch BSE epidemic. A case-control study was performed to identify the risk factors associated with the occurrence of BSE cases in the Netherlands. Sixty-eight of the 76 BSE cases enrolled in the case-control study. With an oral questionnaire information was collected about cow and farm management. The same questionnaire was used in interviews at 128 randomly selected control farms. Detailed analysis of the case anamneses showed that all affected cows could have been exposed to MBM from pig or poultry feed as a result of cross-contamination. In the case-control study, only feed producer appeared to be a relevant risk factor. Differences in log odds between feed producers were related to the moment of separation of production lines and to the origin of the MBM. The results suggest that there were meaningful differences in the level of infectivity in MBM from different origins at the time that cross-contamination was still possible. No other risk factors, either farm or cow related, were significantly associated with the occurrence of BSE.