Briton in Florida has mad cow disease©Associated Press
April 19, 2002
TALLAHASSEE -- A 22-year-old British woman living in Florida is thought to have a brain illness linked to mad cow disease, health officials said Thursday. It is the first known case in the United States.
The woman is thought to have contracted the fatal disease by eating infected beef in Britain at the height of that country's mad cow epidemic in the late 1980s or early 1990s, said Dr. Steve Ostroff of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials with the Florida Department of Health emphasized that there is no reason to suspect cattle in the United States have mad cow disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
"All evidence indicates her illness poses no threat to anyone else or the agriculture industry," said state Health Department spokesman Bill Parizek.
Ostroff agreed there was no risk to Americans from the woman's case of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a brain-wasting condition that is thought to be passed to humans through infected beef.
Mad cow disease first surfaced in British cattle but has spread to cattle in much of Europe. The human form has claimed more than 90 lives in Europe. In all, 125 cases have been reported worldwide, all but eight in Britain.
"Although experience with the disease is pretty limited, there is no evidence to suggest that cases are transmitted from person to person," Ostroff said.
Mad cow disease has never been found in U.S. cattle. Nor had the new variant CJD ever been diagnosed in anyone living here -- although Americans can get a similar disease, regular CJD.
The woman was born and raised in Britain. She began showing symptoms recently in Florida and returned to Britain, where she was diagnosed. She has since returned to Florida to her family, the CDC said.
British health officials informed their U.S. counterparts of her illness Thursday.
Health officials guarded the woman's identity, whereabouts and condition. However, the prognosis is grim.
"This disease is almost always a disease that results in mortality," said Florida Health Secretary John Agwunobi.
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