News and Highlights

2014

Confirmed Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (variant CJD) Case in Texas

Updated: October 7, 2014

CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) have completed the investigation of the recently reported fourth vCJD case in the United States. It confirmed that the case was in a US citizen born outside the Americas and indicated that the patient’s exposure to the BSE/vCJD agent most likely occurred before he moved to the United States; the patient had resided in Kuwait, Russia and Lebanon. The completed investigation did not support the patient’s having had extended travel to European countries, including the United Kingdom, or travel to Saudi Arabia. The specific overseas country where this patient’s infection occurred is less clear largely because the investigation did not definitely link him to a country where other known vCJD cases likely had been infected.

Original Announcement (June 2, 2014)

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.

CDC 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. More information about variant CJD, including how it differs from classic CJD, is available in the Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Fact Sheet.

Confirmed Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (variant CJD) Case in Texas

June 2, 2014

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.

CDC 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. More information about variant CJD, including how it differs from classic CJD.

2008

Rule out of variant CJD as the cause of death of a Virginia resident

Recently, the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center (NPDPSC)External ruled out the presence of variant CJD (vCJD) as the cause of death of a young Virginia woman who died earlier this year. Although this suspected case received international media attention, NPDPSC determined that the cause of death was not due to vCJD.

As of June 2008, the total number of vCJD cases identified in residents of the United States is three; all of which were epidemiologically linked to likely exposures to cattle products contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as “mad cow disease”) while residing in the United Kingdom (2 cases) or Saudi Arabia (1 case).

The NPDPSC was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the American Association of Neuropathologists for the purpose of enhancing national surveillance of human prion diseases such as classic CJD and vCJD. US physicians are encouraged to utilize the diagnostic services of the NPDPSC to confirm all clinically suspected and diagnosed cases of CJD and vCJD. For additional information about the NPDPSC and how to submit diagnostic specimens, consult National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center (NPDPSC)External.

2007

Confirmed Case of Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) in the United States in a Patient from the Middle East

The Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the recent confirmation of a vCJD case in a U.S. resident. This is the third vCJD case identified in a U.S. resident. This latest U.S. case occurred in a young adult who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and has lived in the United States since late 2005. The patient occasionally stayed in the United States for up to 3 months at a time since 2001 and there was a shorter visit in 1989. In late November 2006, the Clinical Prion Research Team at the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center confirmed the vCJD clinical diagnosis by pathologic study of adenoid and brain biopsy tissues. The two previously reported vCJD case-patients in U.S. residents were each born and raised in the United Kingdom (U.K.), where they were believed to have been infected by the agent responsible for their disease. There is strong scientific evidence that the agent causing vCJD is the same agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease).

Variant CJD is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder that emerged in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Although experience with this new disease is limited, evidence to date indicates that there has never been a case transmitted from person-to-person except through blood transfusion. Instead, the disease is thought to result primarily from consumption of cattle products contaminated with the BSE agent. Although no cases of BSE in cattle have been reported in Saudi Arabia, potentially contaminated cattle products from the United Kingdom may have been exported to Saudi Arabia for many years during the large U.K. BSE outbreak.

The current case-patient has no history of receipt of blood, a past neurosurgical procedure, or residing in or visiting countries of Europe. Based on the patient’s history, the occurrence of a previously reported Saudi case of vCJD attributed to likely consumption of BSE-contaminated cattle products in Saudi Arabia, and the expected greater than 7 year incubation period for food-related vCJD, this U.S. case-patient was most likely infected from contaminated cattle products consumed as a child when living in Saudi Arabia1. The current patient has no history of donating blood and the public health investigation has identified no risk of transmission to U.S. residents from this patient.

As of November 2006, 200 vCJD patients were reported world-wide, including 164 patients identified in the United Kingdom, 21 in France, 4 in the Republic of Ireland, 3 in the United States (including the present case-patient), 2 in the Netherlands and 1 each in Canada, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Of the 200 reported vCJD patients, all except 10 of them (including the present case-patient) had resided either in the United Kingdom (170 cases) for over 6 months during the 1980-1996 period of the large UK BSE outbreak or alternatively in France (20 cases).

As reported in 20051, the U.S. National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University confirmed the diagnosis in the one previously identified case of vCJD in a Saudi resident. He was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia and his brain biopsy specimen was shipped to the United States for analysis. This earlier vCJD case-patient was believed to have contracted his fatal disease in Saudi Arabia1.

1 Belay ED, Sejvar JJ, Shieh W-J, Wiersma ST, Zou W-Q, Gambetti P, Hunter S, Maddox RA, Crockett L, Zaki SR, Schonberger LB. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease death, United StatesExternal. Emerg Infect Dis. 2005, 11(9):1351-1354.

2006

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in a U.K. Citizen Who Had Temporarily Resided in Texas, 2001-2005

In November 2005, the U.K. National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a probable variant CJD diagnosis in a 30-year-old man who resided in Texas during 2001-2005. The patient had onset of symptoms in early 2005 while in Texas. He then returned to the United Kingdom, where his illness progressed, and a diagnosis of variant CJD was made. This diagnosis was confirmed neuropathologically after the patient’s death.

The variant CJD diagnosis was initially based on typical clinical manifestations of the disease and demonstration of the characteristic “pulvinar sign” on magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. No biopsy tissues are available for pathologic confirmation of the diagnosis. While living in the United States, the patient had no history of hospitalization, of having invasive medical procedures, or of donation or receipt of blood and blood products.

The patient almost certainly acquired the disease in the United Kingdom. He was born in the United Kingdom and lived there throughout the defined period of risk (1980-1996) for human exposure to the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as “mad cow” disease). His stay in the United States was too brief relative to what is known about the incubation period for variant CJD. For additional information about the incubation period for variant CJD, see Belay ED, Sejvar JJ, Shieh WJ, et al. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Death, United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 2005.

By convention, variant CJD cases are ascribed to the country of initial symptom onset, regardless of where the exposure occurred. Since variant CJD was first reported in 1996, a total of 195 patients with this disease from 11 countries have been identified. As of August 11, 2006, variant CJD cases have been reported from the following countries: 162 from the United Kingdom, 20 from France, 4 from Ireland, 2 from the United States (including the current case), and one each from Canada, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. Similar to the two U.S. cases, two of the four cases from Ireland and the single cases from Canada and Japan were likely exposed to the BSE agent while residing in the United Kingdom.One of the 20 French cases may also have been infected in the United Kingdom. Strong scientific evidence indicates that variant CJD results from the transmission to humans of the agent that causes BSE in cattle. The BSE outbreak in cattle that was first detected in the 1980s in the United Kingdom has spread to many other European countries, and cases in cattle have been identified outside of Europe, in Canada, Israel, Japan, and the United States.

2004

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Not Related to a Common Venue—New Jersey, 1995-2004

Source: MMWR. May 7, 2004;53(Early Release):1-4.

Beginning in June 2003, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) and CDC were notified of a suspected cluster of deaths caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in persons reportedly linked to Garden State Racetrack in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Concerns were raised that these deaths might have resulted from consumption of meat contaminated with the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly called “mad cow disease”) served at racetrack restaurants during 1988–1992. Consumption of BSE-contaminated cattle products has been linked to a new variant form of CJD (vCJD) in humans. This report summarizes the results of an investigation that determined the deaths were not linked causally to a common source of infection. The findings underscore the need for physicians to arrange for brain autopsies of all patients with clinically suspected or diagnosed CJD.

2002

Probable Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in a U.S. Resident—Florida, 2002

Source: MMWR 2002, 51(41);927-929.

On April 18, 2002, the Florida Department of Health and CDC announced the occurrence of a likely case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in a Florida resident aged 22 years. This report documents the investigation of this case and underscores the importance of physicians increasing their suspicion for vCJD in patients presenting with clinical features described in this report who have spent time in areas in which bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is endemic.