Saturday, April 16, 2011

Woman dies from mad cow disease in Spain (CNN)

I was on my way back to Montreal and got to talking with the man sitting next to me on the plane. When I told him that I was a writer and that one of my books (FATAL GREED) was about Human Mad Cow (Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s) Disease he became very agitated. He said that two members of his extended family (a mother and her son) had died of nvCJD some years ago and that, as far as he was concerned, the disease was hereditary.

I found this hard to believe because, when I researched the topic for my book, I read that humans become infected either through coming into contact with incorrectly sterilized surgical instruments, or through eating contaminated tissue (for example beef).

Sure enough, a couple of days after my arrival home CNN reported as follows.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spaniard has died from the human form of mad cow disease, the fifth such death in Spain since 2005, the Ministry of Health said in a statement late Friday.

The victim was a woman who was hospitalized last fall, according to Juan Jose Badiola, director of Spain's national research center for mad cow disease.

The Spanish Ministry of Health reiterated that there is no danger from eating meat in Spain.

"The appearance of these sporadic cases is within the predictions that were made at the European level more than nine years ago," the ministry statement said.

Ten years can pass between eating contaminated tissue and the appearance of the human form of the disease also called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, health officials say.

The first confirmed death from mad cow disease in Spain was in 2005, when a young woman died near Madrid.

The article went on to state that, last September officials reported the death of a woman and her son from the human form of mad cow disease .This was believed to have been the first case in the world where two members of the same family have died from the disease. However, and this is important, the mother and her son had the same eating habits which included eating animal organs, such as kidneys and livers, and they may also have eaten animal brains.

It seems my seat-mate on the plane was, indeed, mistaken.

What is certain though is that, in some cases, nvCJD has an incubation period that has to be measured in decades and not in months. Consequently, only time will tell (decades) how many of us are already infected with this disease.

Given the fact that the USDA only tests one cow out of every 2,000, no one really knows how many of these infected animals may have already entered the human food supply.