Tag Archives: vCJD
I am currently enrolled in Bio 118 – a natural science class that has AIDS and Mad Cow Disease as its main topics. We recently finished reading “Deadly Feasts” by Richard Rhodes. The book talks about how humans came down with a variant of Mad Cow Disease (vCJD) from not only eating infected meat, but from organ transplants, blood transfusions, or Human Growth Hormone that came from donors infected with the disease.
Recently, though, health officials in the UK confirmed a patient who had received blood plasma products for hemophilia during the Mad Cow outbreak of the 1980′s had vCJD. While he did not die of vCJD, an autopsy showed that his brain had the characteristic patterns of the disease. He is the first confirmed patient in the world to have received Mad Cow from blood plasma products.
Britain, luckily, after the outbreak started, began to place restrictions on beef and medical practices that could spread vCJD. The United States, however, never made any laws for beef manufacturers to keep our country safe from Mad Cow. This is particularly worrisome on many levels.
First of all – beef is essentially a staple of the American diet. People can contract Mad Cow from unsupervised manufacturing processes of beef. The second problem – anyone who contracts Mad Cow could go on to become an organ, blood, or plasma donor and infect a number of people because symptoms of vCJD do not typically show up until years, sometimes even decades, after the person was actually infected.
It is scary that the United States has very little regulation on beef manufacturing to control a potential outbreak of Mad Cow. The article saying Mad Cow can officially be spread through human blood plasma products is even scarier since I receive plasma products every 5 days, and have been since I was three years old. Anyone who has received plasma products in the UK from 1980 to 2001 was at risk for contracting vCJD. While I am not a patient in the UK, all of my products are manufactured in Europe. I do not know if there is a potential that products I received in the early 1990s were contaminated. I do not know if I could potentially contract vCJD in ten years. I’m not sure I want to know. What I do know is that a label on my medication has always read “the risk of transmitting infectious agents … and theoretically, the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) agent, cannot be completely eliminated.” It’s not so theoretical any more.
In short, the UK is still having to deal with their Mad Cow outbreak from almost thirty years ago since people still develop symptoms this long after the event. People trying to lead normal lives through the heroic actions of organ, blood, plasma, or hormone donors, are contracting a terrible disease. The United States should enforce beef manufacturing and medical laws before a Mad Cow outbreak happens here and even more people have to worry about the potential of becoming infected. The US could learn from Britain’s mistakes, but instead our government has chosen not to.