State officials are currently investigating an unusualcluster of possible Mad Cow cases in upstate New York. Currently five separate cases of the fatal Creutzfeldt JakobDisease have been diagnosed in Ulster County and surroundingareas alone, a surprising number given that the diseasetypically effects only one in one million people.

Brent Tobey, a resident of Ulster County whose fathersuccumbed to the disease, explained that his father ate alot of beef and that he now believes there is a problem withbeef in the area.

Local health officials are not so sure. The cause ofCreutzfeldt Jakob Disease, or CJD, is unknown, and casesknown to stem from the consumption of Mad Cow-tainted beefare known as variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, or vCJD. Atpresent the CDC has only proven one case of vCJD in theUnited States from a woman in Florida, and she is thought tohave consumed the tainted beef in England.

Only one case of Mad Cow disease in cattle has been provenin the United States, in Washington State. For our storyclick here,and an interview with Dave Louthan, who slaughtered the cow,is available in the Special Interviews archive of oursubscriber?s section.

Because the recent cases cannot be proven as vCJD, healthofficials do not believe the rise is much more than astatistical anomaly. ?We don?t see any threat to the publichealth here whatsoever? says William Van Slyke, deputycommissioner of the New York State Department of Health. Ata normal rate New York has approximately 20 cases of CJD peryear, with numbers going as high as 28 in 2001 and 23 in2003. According to the CDC, the rate of CJD cases in theUnited States has remained stable at 300 per year, and thatcurrently no CDC officials have gone to Ulster County,although a review of the situation there is expected shortly.

Despite representing only a slight increase in the number ofcases of CJD, what makes Ulster County unique is that thevictims of the disease have all come from the same area. Inaddition, five cases of CJD have also been diagnosed innorthern New Jersey, just two counties away from Ulster, andone death from CJD has been confirmed in Orange County, NewYork, which is directly between Ulster and the effected partof New Jersey. Though officials still believe these caseslie within normal parameters, the pattern raises concernsabout a link between geography and the disease, and onehopes the FDA will investigate this thoroughly in theinterest of public heath.

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