« Home | Looks like H5N1 has made its way to Greece » | Intro to prions at Panda's Thumb » | Nature paper on H5N1 Tamiflu resistance » | Polio in Minnesota: update » | Polio in Minnesota » | The best way to deal with "idiot America" » | Discussion on the quarantine issue » | Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink » | Interview with avian flu guru, Robert Webster » | "Stupid about STDs" update » 

Monday, October 17, 2005 

And speaking of prions...

We still don't know what's going on with Idaho, where there have been 9 suspected cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in 2005.

Let me back up a bit. CJD comes in several forms. It can be inheirited, it can appear spontaneously, or it can be acquired (so-called "variant" CJD). It's the latter form--"mad cow disease," or if you want to be technical, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, that has made most of the headlines, as an outbreak occurred in Britain due to contaminated beef (more on that here). Typically, the variant form has affected young people, while the other forms affect those who are older. So far, we don't know of any variant forms which originated in the United States. (One man was diagnosed with vCJD in Florida, but he had previously lived in the UK, and it's assumed he acquired the disease there). It seems that tests are ongoing in the Idaho cases. This article from September 28th mentions:

Additional tests are under way at the lab to determine what form of CJD was responsible in the three confirmed cases.

"Generally, 85 percent of the tests come back as the sporadic, or naturally occurring form, 14 percent come back as the familial form that is passed down through generations and less than 1 percent come back as the variant form," said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the Idaho agency.

So, why are these cases attracting national attention? As noted in the article linked above, Idaho officials have never recorded more than three cases in a single year, and the disease usually infects only one out of every 1 million people worldwide. Idaho's population is only ~1.3 million; therefore, 9 possible cases in a single year is high. It could be a statistical blip, or it could be something more dangerous. If any of these cases turn out to be vCJD, expect the news media to take a short break from all their avian flu coverage and go back to hyping mad cow disease.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
My profile


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates

Powered by Blogger

Creative Commons License
The Tangled Bank Locations of visitors to this page
Enter your email address below to subscribe to Aetiology!

powered by Bloglet

The Evolution Education Site Ring

This site ring is owned by John Stear

Previous Site

List Sites

Random Site

Join Ring

Next Site