Ryerson boasts mad cow expert

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By Lisa Whitaker

At a time when mad cow disease is making headlines around the world, a man whose opinion is highly regarded on the epidemic works in a small office on the second floor of Jorgenson Hall.

While Dr. Tim Sly won’t admit he is an expert on mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), his education, work experience, teachings and genuine interest make him a popular source on the issue.

Sly, director of the school of occupational health, recently appeared on the CBC and Global television and was interviewed for several newspaper articles — the rest of the country considers him an expert.

“I am an epidemiologist,” said Sly. “I study the spread of the disease and look at it from a distance.”

Sly started his career as a veterinary inspector in Britain. He completed his master of science at the University of Western Ontario, and his PhD at the University of Teesside in England.

He credits the media’s interest in his professional opinion to Bruce Piercey, Ryerson’s manager of public affairs, who keeps names on file as potential media sources.

Brian Clarence, a professor at the school of occupational health, said Sly is one of the top people to go to on this topic.

“There are only a couple of people that have the knowledge of BSE at the level of Tim,” said Clarence.

Although media appearances are for academic purposes rather than just publicity, Clarence said it doesn’t hurt to have Ryerson in the media.

BSE attacks the central nervous system of cattle. The human variant of this is known as CJD, a fatal brain illness that has killed nearly 100 people worldwide.

Sly believes Canada has taken all the necessary precautions to deal with the epidemic. The only reported case of BSE in Canada was found in a cow in Red Deer, Alta., in 1993. The animal was destroyed.

“It’s not something to be scared about [in Canada],” Sly said. “But it is something at least we should be taking precautions about as a country, to avoid the potential for escalating if it ever did come in here.”

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