Lab Rules Out Mad Cow Disease in Local Woman's Death

There are two suspected cases of a brain illness known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a form of which is commonly called mad cow disease. Neither are suspected to be mad cow.


A 59-year-old San Rafael resident recently died of a rare brain illness known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but it is not the form of the disease commonly called mad cow disease, a county health official said today.

Aline Shaw died on Jan. 27, according to KGO-TV. Lab analysis of tissue samples reveal that Shaw did not die of mad cow disease, according to Dr. Craig Lindquist, Marin County's interim public health officer.

"It appears to be a rare, one-in-a-million form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. It's not from eating beef. It's not contagious or spread by intimate contact or transmissible by common contact," Lindquist said.

A Marin County physician recently notified the California Department of Public Health of two suspected cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Lindquist said. State public health officials then notified the on Friday, Lindquist said.

The other Marin County resident with the suspected case is still alive, and a definitive diagnosis is not possible, Lindquist said.

"We have to examine the brain tissue post-mortem," Lindquist said.

Shaw was the executive director of non-profit Love is the Answer, known as LITA, for seven years, KGO-TV reports.

There are two forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Classic CJD" is a human prion, or abnormal protein disease. It is rapidly progressive, with death occurring within one year of the outset of the illness, according to the CDCP. There is one case per million people worldwide per year, and there have been known cases since the early 1920s, according to the CDC. 

It is caused by the spontaneous transformation of normal prion proteins into abnormal prions, according to the agency.

It is not related to a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease known as "mad cow disease", or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that become infected with a transmissible prion in the meat and bone meal they are fed, according to the CDC. Humans, in turn, contract the disease by eating the meat of infected cattle.

BSE spread among cattle in Great Britain and peaked with almost 1,000 cases a week in 1993, according to the CDCP. Through the end of 2010, more than 145,500 cases were confirmed among more than 35,000 herds.

Lindquist said there is no link between the two Creutzfeldt-Jakob cases in Marin County, and it is not clear which form of the disease is afflicting the living victim.

"There is no threat or danger. Beef is very safe to eat," Lindquist said.


Bay City News Service

EDNA WINDES February 10, 2012 at 09:34 PM
How about Raccoon Round Worm? I recently watched a segment on Channel 9 about raccoon round worm that was scary. Raccoons don't get it but are carriers and anything touched by a raccoon can spread it to animals and people, causing severe neurological disease that often is fatal.


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