No tie to food in three brain disease cases: FHA

Fraser region victims have standard Creutzfeldt-Jakob not 'human mad cow disease'

Dr. Paul Van Buynder is chief medical health officer for the Fraser Health Authority.

Three suspected Lower Mainland cases of a degenerative brain-wasting disease have nothing to do with mad cow disease or the consumption of beef, say public health officials.

One resident in the Fraser Health region is dead of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and two others who are ill are believed to have it.

“I want to be clear there is absolutely no evidence that these three confirmed or probable cases are linked to food consumption,” said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer.

He said these are cases of “classical” CJD that appear every year, albeit rarely, at a rate of one or two per million.

Tests have ruled out the variant form of CJD linked to consumption of beef from cattle infected with mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

“There has never been a home-grown case of variant CJD in Canada so this is not surprising,” Van Buynder said.

He said some media and social media reports wrongly referred to the local cases as “human mad cow disease.”

About 30 Canadians a year contract the standard form of CJD.

Van Buynder said the three cases in Fraser are one or two more than might normally be expected here in a year, but still within what’s statistically likely.

“There is no outbreak and I want to reassure residents of the Lower Mainland that there is no risk to the public or to residents in our facilities.”

The patients are from different Fraser region cities and settings, he said, and a review so far has not found any links to suggest a common source of the neurological disorder.

Three more possible case were investigated by Fraser over the past year but are considered unlikely to be CJD.

CJD victims die about a year after symptoms appear.

They first show psychiatric problems like anxiety or depression, followed by persistent pain or odd sensations, unsteady or jerky walking, progressive dementia and eventual inability to move or speak.

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