Friday, March 26


Once again, hard-charging Steve Mitchell has uncovered an odd CJD case that no one in charge seems to want to discuss, but which relatives consider to be full-blown Mad Cow. "A Connecticut woman who physicians initially suspected in 2000 of being the nation's first case of human mad cow disease appears to have been overlooked by state and federal health officials," he reports. Not only did her doctor initially suspect that form of the disease "based on electroencephalogram readings of Jodi's brain waves," but her case, at age 50 (very young for "sporadic" CJD) should have automatically triggered an investigation by the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center. But folks there are extremely cagey about discussing why no investigation seems to have happened, using the old, irrelevant "patient confidentiality" excuse so well-bandied by the National Zoo. None of it proves Americans are dying from real Mad Cow, but this story alone would make you wonder about the whole situation.

UPDATE 3/28: Speaking of those pesky suspicious CJD cases, The New York Times has now put its imprimatur on The Case of the Cherry Hill Cluster. Just ran across it - I'll have more after I read it. You too, huh?

AFTER READING: Well, it's an OK piece, I suppose, but typical of NYTMag style, I guess, in that it was either assigned with, or the author decided on, certain undeclared biases as to what the real story is. Skarbek is painted as a woman driven to distraction by her quixotic obsession, with clumsy Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole references, and the focus is on her and her motivations rather than the more relevant food-safety question. Almost no other clusters, nor the vast amount of lying and smokescreening done by the USDA on Mad Cow, are mentioned. Ultimately, the story is either willfully dishonest or ridiculously incompetent: I'll give "D.T. Max" a pass on the highly relevant factoid that CJD is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimers, but in an article whose core question is whether there might be a strain of variant CJD that resembles "sporadic" CJD, there's ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION of the bombshell discovery, earlier this year, of exactly that type of BSE - and experts' opinion that this means we should be looking for it in human CJD. That omission alone is incredibly lame, and kind of sinks the credibility of the whole piece, unfortunately.

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