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From: TSS ()
Subject: Another Idaho woman dies of suspected Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease
Date: September 16, 2005 at 10:31 am PST

Another Idaho woman dies of suspected Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease

By The Associated Press Friday, September 16, 2005

ST. MARIES, Idaho (AP) -- State health officials say a northern Idaho woman may be the seventh person to die in 2005 of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, a fatal brain-wasting illness that robs people of their ability to control body movements or even speak before it swiftly kills them.

Kathy Isenberg, 53, died Sept. 5 at the Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene.

In May, she became unsteady on her feet, said Jonathan Isenberg, her husband. By mid-August, she was in wheelchair and needed 24-hour care. She spoke her last words -- "I love you" -- to her husband on Aug. 31, he said.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials have been sifting through case histories of six other people who have died this year of what's suspected to be the disease, all of them from southern Idaho. They're trying to determine links between victims that could explain a possible "cluster" of an illness that kills fewer than 300 people annually in the United States, and an average of just three in Idaho.

Officials don't believe these latest cases are linked to a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, or "mad cow disease," that can be transmitted to humans who eat tainted beef. The last confirmed CJD case in Idaho was in 2003, when a Twin Lakes man died from what health officials said was the more common, sporadic form of the disease.

Autopsies are being conducted on four of the seven Idaho residents, including Isenberg. They weren't available in the other three cases. This is the first year that physicians are required to report CJD cases in Idaho.

In an eighth suspected case, test results returned in August from the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western University in Ohio helped doctors conclude that woman didn't die of Creutzfeldt-Jacob.

It will be at least two weeks before they have initial results from a sample of Isenberg's brain tissue, according to Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

While the diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob made it clear that Kathy Isenberg would likely die -- there's no treatment for the disease -- Jonathan Isenberg said it was also a vindication: The neurologist who initially examined Kathy thought her problems were psychosomatic, possibly stemming from depression.

Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease is sometimes misdiagnosed as something else, including Alzheimer's.

When a new doctor who'd just conducted a brain scan on Kathy Isenberg on Aug. 20 told the couple he was 90 percent certain she suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jacob, she turned to her husband and said, "You see, I'm not crazy."

Information from: The Spokesman-Review,


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