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Japanese Veterinarian Kills Self

May 14, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ A veterinarian who failed to diagnose Japan’s latest case of mad cow disease has committed suicide, health officials said Tuesday.

The women was found dead in her apartment Sunday morning, a day after the cow tested positive at a university and rekindled worries about tainted beef.

The Health Ministry confirmed Monday that it was Japan’s first case of mad cow disease since last autumn, when a small outbreak of three cases gripped the nation and caused meat sales to plummet.

The woman, who had failed to spot early signs of the disease in the cow on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, was not identified. She left a suicide note reading: ``As a veterinarian, I apologize for such actions,″ according to Mitsuaki Kawakami, manager at the public health center where the woman worked.

``This is tragic,″ Kawakami said. ``She was a very serious, responsible worker. It is very difficult, even for experts, to correctly diagnose BSE.″

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has devastated European cattle. Japan became Asia’s first country with infected herds when an initial case was discovered in September. Two other cows tested positive in November.

Mad cow disease is believed to spread through cattle feed using recycled meat and bones from infected animals. The fatal human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is believed to be caused in humans by eating infected beef.

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