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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Human variant of mad cow disease suspected in UK man
By Sara Andrews
Aug 30, 2006 - 9:34:00 AM

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30 Aug, ( - Hong Kong's Hospital Authority confirmed today that a 23-year-old UK man is suspected of having the human variant of mad cow disease or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The unidentified man is in critical condition and is undergoing treatment in Prince of Wales Hospital.

The man apparently sought treatment in Hong Kong on April 6 and exhibited symptoms of mental derangement. The man is of Chinese origin and has had intestinal surgery previously. However local tests failed to confirm if he is indeed suffering from a human variant of mad cow disease.

Hong Kong health department spokesperson Lee Ying-ming said the man was born in Britain and visited Hong Kong with his family on April 4. Two days later he was hospitalized after he complained of dizziness and began behaving oddly.

"This case is not a local one," Lee added. "We believe whatever he has, he caught it overseas."

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) seen in cattle. Humans get the disease after consuming contaminated meat products.

According to the CDC, BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that is caused by an agent called as prion. It is not properly understood how this prion transmits itself among cattle.

In humans BSE takes the form of a variant CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). This disease is characterized by psychiatric/behavioral symptoms; painful dyesthesiasis and delayed neurological signs. The first signs exhibited are mainly emotional or behavioral disturbances, such as social withdrawal, depression, anxiety or agitation.

The CDC says that the median age of death in the variant form is 28 years and death usually occurs within a year of contacting the infection. The onset of illness in the first case of vCJD occurred in early 1994, nearly a decade after the first case of BSE was recognized in cattle.

To date vCJD was reported in 161 cases in the UK, 18 in France and 12 in the rest of the world - most of those of UK origin. In the 1990s more than 150 people died as a result of this disease.

In the current suspected case, officials say the man is critically ill. It is not known if he demonstrated any other neurological signs prior to April.

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