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In the current case, the USDA didn’t elaborate on the cow’s symptoms other than to say it was “humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent.” Outward symptoms of the disease can include unsteadiness and incoordination.

The unidentified Tulare County dairy where the cow died was not under obligation to report its suspicious behavior, according to state and federal agriculture officials, because the symptoms mimic other neurological diseases that can afflict cattle, said Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis.

“In reality (mad cow disease) is so rare in this country and there are just very little in the way of clinical signs specific to BSE alone,” said Breitmeyer, who spent 17 years as California’s state veterinarian.