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Diagnosis of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is confirmed by specified laboratory methods on brain material. On the other hand clinical signs of manifest BSE are quite obvious.
The first part of this paper describes case histories, clinical signs, laboratory findings and the most common differential diagnoses. On the basis of the data of actual prevalence in Germany, the role of clinical examination in eradication of BSE is dealt in the second part,
Clinical diagnosis is a very sensitive and specific method when there is a high prevalence. According to the data from December 2000 to November 2001 prevalence in Germany was beyond I BSE case per 100000 cattle or 3 cases per 100000 cows. This very low prevalence decreases rapidly sensitivity and specificity of the diagnosis made by clinical examination. Therefore the main focus of field-diagnostics has to be laid on specified laboratory diagnostic methods. On the other hand prevalence of BSE-positive cattle is distinctly higher in the group of animals slaughtered in cases of illness or emergency than in cattle slaughtered on the regulary bases. Nevertheless every veterinary practitioner should be aware of the clinical picture of BSE, clinical examination-routine and differential diagnosis, because occurrence of BSE is still possible in any dairy herd. At the moment it is not possible to make any statement if eradication of BSE can be reached in future.