A man from Texas has died after eating meat from cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a disease that damages the central nervous system of infected cattle and is more commonly known as the mad cow disease.
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the man had a variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Patients who have contracted the degenerative disease suffer from dementia, which causes memory loss, hallucination and personality changes as well as depression, paranoia, speech impairment and seizures before they die.
CJD, an incurable and fatal brain disorder, is linked with the consumption of products from cows that were infected with the mad cow disease and thus sometimes called as the human form of BSE. It was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1996 and only had three reported cases in the U.S. prior to the infection of the Texas man who died in May. Of the three previous CJD cases, two were infected in the United Kingdom and one in Saudi Arabia.
CDC's confirmation was based on laboratory results that show the patient's brain had a variant CJD. "Laboratory tests have confirmed a diagnosis of variant CJD (a fatal brain disorder) in a patient who recently died in Texas," the CDC said in a statement. "The confirmation was made when laboratory results from an autopsy of the patient's brain tested positive for variant CJD."
Health officials, however, said that the public do not have to panic. Just like with the previous cases of variant CJD in the country, the CDC believes that the fourth infection also occurred outside the U.S. as the patient travelled extensively overseas particularly in Europe and the Middle East. CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson also said that there is no evidence that suggest the fourth CJD patient in the U.S. exposed other people to the disease.
In a statement posted on its website, the Texas State Department of Health Services likewise assured the public that the case of the Texas man did not pose health threats.
"The history of this fourth patient includes extensive travel to Europe and the Middle East, and infection likely occurred outside the United States," the agency said. "There are no Texas public health concerns or threats associated with this case."
National Cattlemen's Beef Association director Kathy Simmons, on the other hand, said that no vCJD case that has been directly linked with consumption of beef in the U.S. has yet been reported.