On Thursday, health officials announced a Texas patient is the fourth person in the U.S. to die of a rare brain disorder believed to be caused by eating beef products contaminated with mad cow disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says recent lab tests confirmed a diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the patient. The NIH says Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder. In the U.S. there are about 300 cases per year. In the early stages of disease, people may have failing memory, behavioral changes, lack of coordination and visual disturbances. As the illness progresses, mental deterioration becomes pronounced and involuntary movements, blindness, weakness of extremities, and coma may occur. There is no treatment for the disease.
The CDC says that in each of the three previous U.S. cases, infection likely occurred outside the U.S. And the center says the Texas patient’s history included extensive travel to Europe and the Middle East.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says there are no state public health concerns or threats associated with the case. The CDC and DSHS are investigating.
The first case of mad cow disease was confirmed in a cow in the United States in December 2003.