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U.K. Man Who Had Lived in Texas is Diagnosed with vCJD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed that a citizen of Great Britain, who had lived in Houston, TX for four years, has been diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). The 30-year-old man had begun experiencing symptoms of the disease before he moved back to Great Britain earlier this year. He was born in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and resided there from 1980-1996, a period of time when the risk of exposure to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) through the consumption of contaminated beef was at its peak. BSE, known as mad cow disease in animals, is a progressive, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system. The CDC was made aware of the case by the U.K. National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Although the diagnosis of the U.K. man raises some concern, CDC and U.S. government officials do not view this case as proof of further domestic transmission. “He lived in the U.K. for the whole time they had a problem,” said Lawrence B. Schonberger, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC. He added, “almost certainly, this case represents a continuation of the outbreak that is going on in the U.K. and it is just by convention that he happened to have gotten sick here.”


Mad cow disease in animals and vCJD in humans, are prion-related diseases resulting in very serious neurological symptoms and death. There is currently no treatment for vCJD. If a person was to become infected with vCJD, there exists a theoretical possibility of them donating blood and bringing the disease into the U.S. blood supply. While residing in Houston, this particular man was never hospitalized, had not undergone any invasive surgeries or received donated blood, according to the CDC.


Beverly Boyd, a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Agriculture asserts, “This is not a safety issue for Texas. We have taken all the necessary steps possible to prevent any exposure in the United States and we have a very safe beef supply in Texas and America.”


The CDC has stated that there is no connection between this U.K. human case and the BSE detection in a Texas cow this past summer. In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the first case of BSE in a U.S.-born cow. However, it was clearly determined that the meat of that cow did not enter the food supply.


Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2005


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