02/13/2015 12:57 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Some facts about mad cow disease

CALGARY - Facts about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as BSE or mad cow disease:

What is it? A chronic, degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system of cattle.

What it does: Kills brain cells, creating gaps in tissue and giving the brain a sponge-like appearance.

Ways it is transmitted: Cow to calf; spontaneously; by eating ruminant feed.

Human form of BSE: Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

How people contract the vCJD: By eating the meat, particularly brain and spinal cord, from infected animals.

Symptoms: Memory loss, mood swings and lack of co-ordination, followed by shakiness, dementia and paralysis.