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There are a number of rare transmissible agents in man and animals which attack the central nervous system and cause the brain’s grey matter to degenerate. Since 1985, cattle have succumbed to a bovine form of this disease (BSE) in increasing numbers, leading to a series of control measures by Government. Debate continues however, on the public health implications of BSE.

This POSTnote examines the current state of knowledge of ‘slow viruses’ such as BSE, the evidence relevant to the public health implications and uncertainties which remain.

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