Laboratory tests have confirmed a diagnosis of variant CJD (a fatal brain disorder) in a patient who recently died in Texas. The confirmation was made when laboratory results from an autopsy of the patient’s brain tested positive for variant CJD.
First described in 1996 in the United Kingdom, variant CJD is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder in humans. It is believed to be caused by consumption of products from cows with the disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease).
Worldwide, more than 220 variant CJD patients have been reported, with a majority of them in the United Kingdom (177 cases) and France (27 cases). This case is the fourth to be reported in the United States. In each of the three previous cases, infection likely occurred outside the United States, including the United Kingdom (2 cases) and Saudi Arabia (1 case). The history of this fourth patient, including extensive travel to Europe and the Middle East, supports the likelihood that infection occurred outside the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control assisted the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)’s investigation of this case and will continue to help confirm further details of the patient’s history, including the potential source of infection.
A classic form of CJD, which is not caused by the BSE agent, occurs worldwide, including in the United States. Annually, for every 1 million people in the United States, 1 to 2 develops classic CJD.