CDC confirms Texas case of vCJD

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A Texas man who recently died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) probably contracted the disease while travelling overseas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Variant CJD is the fatal brain disorder linked to consumption of products from cattle with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

According to the CDC, the patient had travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. Likewise, the three previous cases of vCJD in the United States involved two people who had lived in the United Kingdom and one who had lived in Saudi Arabia. According to a CDC fact sheet on the disease, there has never been a case of vCJD that did not have a history of exposure within a country where the cattle disease, BSE, was occurring.

Variant CJD is distinct from Classic CJD, which occurs around the world and is not known to be linked to BSE or other animal diseases. In the United States, Classic CJD occurs in one to two people per million, and it tends to affect older people, in contrast with vCJD where cases have a lower median age.

Variant CJD remains extremely rare worldwide. Since the disease was first identified in 1996, 229 cases have been reported. The largest concentration of cases occurred in the UK, with 177, and in France with 27. In the early 1990s, BSE became an epidemic in the UK, and reported cases reached a peak of nearly 1,000 per week in 1993. Scientists believe the emergence of BSE resulted from feeding cattle processed byproducts such as bone meal from sheep infected with scrapie , which is a related disease. Once that practice stopped, the incidence of BSE and vCJD dropped off significantly.

In the United States, the FDA instituted a ruminant feed ban in June 1997 that became fully effective as of October 1997. In October 26, 2009, FDA implemented enhanced BSE-related feed ban with tighter controls. In late 2001, the Harvard Center for Risk Assessment study of various scenarios involving BSE in the U.S. concluded that the FDA ruminant feed rule provides a major defense against this disease.

Read more from the CDC.


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shaun evertson    
Nebraska  |  June, 06, 2014 at 09:16 AM

Couple of thoughts. "Linked" is not the same as "caused by." vCJD is as likely as not caused by some other process. After more than 20 years and exhaustive global research, causality has not been proven. The press and governmental agencies SAY it's proven, but IT IS NOT. Now in the above article GB is said to have had a TOTAL of 177 cases.That jibes squarely with the published numbers. How then is it possible that vCJD was an EPIDEMIC in GB with THOUSANDS of cases PER WEEK? Is this simply today's common journalistic slop or is this an attempt at revisionist history? If you recall the hysterical news reporting from the early 1990's GB and most of Europe were going to be DEPOPULATED by this evil scourge. Last time I checked GB and Europe are chock full of not-dead people. Is it too much to ask for objective reporting? Can we get a little reality check here?

Dr. Phil    
Kansas  |  June, 06, 2014 at 09:59 AM

Read the article again. It does not say vCJD was an epidemic but BSE was. Sick cows,not sick people. Is it too much to ask for accurate reading?

John Maday    
Colorado  |  June, 06, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Shaun: While it is true there is no scientific proof of cause and effect, the link between BSE and vCJD is well-supported with epidemiological evidence and generally well accepted in the scientific community. Proving cause and effect would require controlled trials, involving feeding beef from BSE-infected cattle to a test group of people, which clearly would be unethical. However, the data show that when producers stopped feeding ruminant byproducts to cattle, the incidence of BSE dropped off dramatically. And after the number of BSE-infected cattle entering the food chain shrank to near zero, the number of new human cases of vCJD dropped accordingly. And yes, BSE did reach epidemic proportions in UK cattle herds in the early 90’s. It is likely that thousands, possibly tens of thousands of BSE-infected cattle entered the food chain before the disease and its link to vCJD became understood and the industry took action. That suggests there probably were millions of servings of beef from BSE cattle served to consumers, and yet there have only been 177 cases of vCJD in the UK and 229 worldwide. What all that tells us is that while there is a link between BSE and vCJD, the risk of contracting vCJD, even among those eating beef from BSE cattle, is extremely low.

Shaun e    
June, 08, 2014 at 10:24 PM

You're right, apparently it was too much to ask. I'm deeply ashamed!

Shaun e    
Nebraska  |  June, 08, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Dr pill was right, I should have read more closely. I apologize if it appeared that I was taking a shot at the writer of this piece. In my defense, the major media still commonly makes out mad cow disease as a wild epidemic and existential threat to humanity. That aside, Thanks for emphasizing the context and the proportion of vCJD. Context is important. More Americans commit suicide every day than have died from variant c. J. D. In more than 20 years.

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