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From: TSS ()
Subject: Northern Idaho woman may be suffering from brain wasting disease CJD
Date: September 1, 2005 at 2:27 pm PST

Northern Idaho woman may be suffering from brain wasting disease

By The Associated Press Thursday, September 01, 2005

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho health officials are investigating another possible case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the brain-wasting illness that is suspected in a cluster of four recent deaths in southern Idaho.

The latest case involves a northern Idaho woman over the age of 50 whose doctor believes she may be suffering from the disease. State health officials are in the initial stages of determining if it qualifies as a suspected CJD case.

"This is the only report that's being investigated in our area at this time," Susan Cuff, Panhandle Health District spokeswoman, told the Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Health officials are also monitoring an elderly man in Elmore County who may have the disease.

This is the first year that a new Idaho law requires doctors to report suspected CJD cases. Creutzfeldt-Jakob is an incurable illness that causes normal brain proteins to fold, leading to brain damage.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare initially had logged five suspected fatal cases of CJD since January, but this week a preliminary test from the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western University in Cleveland found one of the deaths was not related to "prions" or malformed proteins that characterize thge disease.

Autopsy samples were not collected from two of the suspected cases. Preliminary test results have not been received in one case and Case Western has told the state the other case is indeed a prion disease, but more testing was needed to determine what form of CJD the victim died from.

State officials do not believe any of the cases are the rare variant form of the disease -- the kind acquired from eating beef from cattle contaminated with spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow" disease.

The Case Western lab tests will determine whether the one confirmed CJD death was from the variant form or the naturally occurring sporadic form of the disease.

The last confirmed case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in northern Idaho was in 2003. An autopsy performed on the victim, Peter Putnam of Twin Lakes, showed he suffered from the sporadic form of the disease.

Very few Idahoans have died from CJD. The state had one death attributed to CJD in 2004, Putnam's in 2003 and none in 2002, according to Tom Shanahan, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman.

Although doctors are required to report suspected CJD cases, the disease is difficult to diagnose while a patient is alive.

"There's no definitive test to tell you that this is CJD," said Shanahan.

To know conclusively whether a person died of CJD, an autopsy must be performed and a brain tissue sample sent to Case Western for testing.

CJD is not contagious, and is only of public health concern if the patient is believed to have eaten contaminated beef. So far, only two cattle in the United States have been found to have "mad cow" disease.

The fact that the state is looking into reports of CJD is nothing to be alarmed about, Cuff said. "This is not a public health threat," she said.


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