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A second case of mad cow disease may have turned up in the United States, Agriculture Department officials said today.

The officials released few details, saying it would be four to seven days before the possible case could be confirmed.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, attacks an animal's nervous system. People who eat food contaminated with BSE can contract a rare disease that is nearly always fatal, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The United States reported its first case of mad cow disease last December. Japan and other countries banned U.S. beef as a result of that case.

Suspicions about another case of the disease followed an inconclusive test result, officials said.

"The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country," said Andrea Morgan of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

"It is important to note that this animal did not enter the food or feed chain," she said.

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