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TOKYO (AP) _ Thousands of health officials have launched a nationwide search for mad cow disease following the discovery of Japan's first suspected case earlier this week, a government official said Thursday.

About 5,800 officials were conducting inspections at 140,000 farms, said Shigeki Oda, an official with the Agriculture Ministry's animal health division.

The emergency inspection began Wednesday and is slated to last through Sept. 30. It is aimed at finding clinical symptoms linked to mad cow disease in the cattle, Oda said.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is thought to cause the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans who eat infected beef. CJD kills its victims by tearing holes in their brain tissue.

The probe comes after Japan on Monday reported that a five-year-old Holstein milk cow on a farm in Chiba state, just east of Tokyo, tested positive for mad cow disease, as BSE is commonly known. The cow was slaughtered.

No other cases of mad cow disease has been reported since.

Japan's emergency inspections came on the heels of announcements by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines that they were banning beef imports from Japan.