US officials say cases of deadly brain disease ‘not widespread’

Written by Ilyas Azhar, CNN

No cases of the contagious brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) have been identified in the US, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Cooperative Agreement with the United Kingdom’s Department of Health Surveillance confirms no cases of the contagious brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) have been reported in the United States,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

The news follows recent news that CJD has been found in the UK, with two individuals diagnosed in the last year. CJD is a fatal condition that is linked to a genetic mutation that prevents sufferers from protecting themselves from a rare, degenerative disease.

Scientists involved in the international study that identified the lethal disease believe it’s probably in other parts of the world but have yet to confirm it’s spread.

“(CJD) patients in the US have been very fortunate in that it has remained rare here, but thankfully it’s not widespread,” Jeannette Hochuli of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Internal Medicine told CNN affiliate KETV.

CJD is the human form of a brain disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), and a deadly, incurable neurodegenerative disease that causes hallucinations, excessive aggression and dementia. Its symptoms can start within months after infection with the disease-causing enzyme BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Although the infection usually affects young people, it can strike anyone.

When there’s no change in the body’s protective defense, it’s called sporadic CJD. But it’s more common than BSE in humans, although they’re completely different forms of the disease. However, doctors are studying whether the two diseases are somehow linked.

CNN reported last month that CJD sufferers are becoming more aggressive and hospitalized in the UK, raising fears that the illness could be spreading there.

Experts suspect that people that are not likely to die from the brain disease are getting it. After studying 5,000 patients with sporadic CJD, scientists led by Dr. Mark Forster from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research, London, and the University of Oxford found that people with an elevated score on an IQ test between the ages of 15 and 35 were at a higher risk of developing the disease.

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