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From: TSS ()
Subject: Another CJD case stirs concerns on local front Our view: Idahoans need to know more about the growing outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease
Date: August 26, 2005 at 6:36 am PST

Friday, August 26, 2005 • Twin Falls, Idaho

Another CJD case stirs concerns on local front

Our view: Idahoans need to know more about the growing outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease.

The cluster of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease cases grew more troubling in the past week. Meanwhile, state and federal government response has remained the same.

That may not suffice should another case emerge in southern Idaho.

While nobody welcomes the idea of a health scare related to a brain degenerative disease, the investigation of a sixth possible case of CJD in southern Idaho may warrant more response from state and federal health agencies.

Officials for Idaho Department of Health and Welfare say they're now observing an Elmore County man diagnosed with CJD. Since January, the state has diagnosed six individuals with the disease.

The previous five cases -- four in Twin Falls County and one in Minidoka County -- all ended in deaths. Those five cases all involved women over the age of 60. The Elmore County case involves a man older than 60.

CJD is a rapidly acting disease of the brain and nervous system caused by prions, or abnormal proteins in the bloodstream. State health officials believe the five fatalities involved the sporadic form of CJD, not the variant form that is linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- commonly known as mad cow disease. The median age of death with s-CJD is 68, while the median age with v-CJD is 28, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC says the sporadic form of the disease shows up one or two times annually in an area with 1 million people. The risk goes up for individuals 50 and over, to about 3.4 cases a year in a population of 1 million. The CDC also says the U.S. has annually reported fewer than 300 cases of CJD in recent years.

All these numbers start to create a mystery for the state of Idaho. Idaho District Health says the state (population 1.4 million) sees about three cases of sporadic CJD a year -- a higher number than the CDC's national average.

But the mystery grows when you consider this cluster of six cases has emerged in three counties with a combined population of around 114,000. Adding more intrigue, all of these cases have emerged since January.

Two clusters of sporadic CJD deaths in recent years occurred in New Jersey, involving 12 deaths; and in Oregon, involving 14 deaths. Those clusters, however, unfolded over a period of 36 months and 24 months, and in population areas of 1.7 million and 3.4 million, respectively.

Residents in southern Idaho should understand the limitations that come with studying this disease. Determining the form of CJD requires the testing of tissue and may take months. For three of Idaho's cases, tissue has been sent to a renowned pathology lab at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, state health officials are studying the subjects' family histories, medical records. Yet finding a cause is never guaranteed.

State health officials could still help resolve concerns on this issue. Is Idaho's rate of sporadic CJD, three a year, higher than neighboring states? Has that number increased in recent years compared to traditional rates? And if the cluster grows, when does the CDC become more involved?

This CJD cluster has stirred concerns and questions among southern Idaho residents. State officials need to be prepared to tell us more.

Story published at on Friday, August 26, 2005


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