News Stories

Seven Mad Cow Deaths Linked to Racetrack

Seven people died of the human form of Mad Cow Disease in New Jersey, with their only contact being that they all ate in the same racetrack restaurant, making one wonder what was being served there.

Faye Flam writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the seven victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease had all eaten at the Garden State Race Track in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Janet Skarbek brought the cases to the attention of the Center for Disease Control because her friend Carrie Mahan was one of them.

Skarbek started to look for other cases of CJD in the obituaries and found an 83-year-old man who had also spent time at the racetrack where Mahan worked between 1989 and 1995. Then she found four more cases among people who ate at the racetrack restaurant, as well as another woman who had worked at the track, which closed in 2001.

It's been discovered that prion diseases can be passed from animal to animal, with some of them being unaffected carriers of the disease. This means that there may also be humans who are carriers of CJD, without being affected by it. Their blood could contaminate blood transfusions and medical equipment, without anyone realizing it. Regular sterilization does not removed prions from surgical instruments.

Neurologist Patrick Bosque says, "It raises an additional level of concern, that these prions can persist in animals, and increase, even though (the animals) don't appear sick. For one thing, it shows you that screening for just obviously sick animals may not be sufficient."

Michael Hansen, of the Consumers Union, says although feeding cattle remains directly to cows has been banned, cattle brains and spinal columns, where prions can lurk, are still turned into feed for chickens and pigs, whose remains are then put into cattle feed. He says, "Those animals could become silent carriers and infect cattle."

The CDC's Tom Skinner says all seven New Jersey patients had sporadic CJD, a brain disease that was once not believed to be linked to infected beef. But now scientists say that sporadic CJD may be mistaken for Mad Cow?or may even be the same disease.

Todd Harman reports for the Scripps Howard News Service that it's long been believed that only one of the two versions of human CJD can be linked to eating meat. The other version, known as sporadic or classical CJD, has long been thought to occur randomly in about one in every million people, with no link to infected meat. But new studies show that classical CJD may also be caused by eating meat, and that many of these cases, which occur in older people, may have been misdiagnosed as Alzheimer?s Disease.

Scientists in the U.K. injected tissue from a cow with Mad Cow Disease into mice whose brains were genetically engineered with human genes. One set of mice got sick with the human form of Mad Cow, but another set of mice developed what looked like the sporadic form of CJD, the one that scientists believed has no relationship to Mad Cow Disease or meat-eating.

The main thing separating the type of diagnosis you're given may be your age. People who die of classical (or sporadic) CJD are all older people. Researchers first noticed Mad Cow Disease when young people started dying of CJD. But they may actually be the same disease and may both be caused by eating tainted meat. Researcher (and vegan) Dr. Michael Greger says, "Given the new research showing that infected beef may be responsible for some (classical) CJD, thousands of Americans may already be dying because of Mad Cow Disease every year."

Civilization sprang up very suddenly on this planet. Will Hart makes a riveting case that this happened because somebody changed humanity genetically. Don't miss Whitley's interview with him on this week's Dreamland!

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