An abandoned factory in Kent “undoubtedly” contains mad cow disease which could threaten humans if released.
Thruxted Mill was one of five locations in the UK where cattle infected with mad cow disease were taken to be destroyed, and scientists have warned the now-abandoned facility still poses dangers today.
The mill has been abandoned for over 15 years and developers have been wanting to turn the site into housing for some time, only to be told never to entice people to go there.
Professor Alan Colchester of the University of Kent said the mill and the woods around it could be contaminated with molecules that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease .
He warned that the molecules are incredibly difficult to destroy and can incubate for several years, posing a risk to human life if people mistakenly spread the disease from the abandoned compound.
There is evidence to suggest that if a human being eats meat from an animal with mad cow disease, it can lead to what is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is a brain disorder rare that has always been fatal for anyone diagnosed.
However, people said they had been to the abandoned factory before, because on an urban explorer website, a user claimed to have been to Thruxted Mill last May.
They said they found animal bones in the abandoned site and the whole place reeked of a “mixture of blood, rust, rot, oil, pigeon shit and death”.
The user, who visits online forum ’28DaysLater.co.uk’ as RXQueen, said the dangerous place was ‘wide open’.
Professor Colchester said: “The site poses a biohazard. It has always been known that infected agents of mad cow disease are incredibly resistant to normal decay and destruction and there will undoubtedly be contamination at long-term soil.
“The fact is, there are different ways to come into contact with it. The worst case scenario is that you can transmit the disease to animals or humans from environmental materials that have themselves been infected in the past.
“And with CJD, we’re talking about a very long incubation period – months to years. Infected remains have been left lying around and contaminated material is probably still in the ground in large quantities.”
He recommended that there should be no attempt to bring people into the vicinity and that if such a thing happened in an urban environment where people already lived, they “should tar it completely”.
BSE was first discovered in the UK in 1986 with an estimated 4.4 million animals slaughtered in a bid to eradicate the disease and remove infected animals from the food supply.
During the 1990s and much of the 00s, trucks full of cattle carcasses were brought to Thruxted Mill for destruction before the site closed in 2008.