Rare illness hits close to home

You never worry about it until it happens to you or someone you know. So, when the news about the South Florida woman who was diagnosed with Mad Cow hit, students became interested.

Charlene-whose last name was withheld for subject sensitivity-a University of Miami graduate, was diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in 2002.

She contracted the disease at 22 years old, making it a reality for young people.

Variant CJD, is the human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a chronic brain disorder of cattle.

Although the disease is an epidemic in the United Kingdom, it is also becoming a real issue in the United States.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture diagnosed a dairy cow in Washington with BSE last December.

After the cow was slaughtered, its remains were released and available for consumers. The Food Safety and Inspection Service recalled beef from the BSE-positive cattle the next day.

With the increasing frenzy over the rare disorder, students are beginning to wonder if they should be worried.

“They (students) don’t necessarily have to be worried about it, but they should definitely be aware,” said Monique Potter, the health educator at the student health center.

Potter said an easy and helpful way to deal with Mad Cow is to stay informed.

However, some choose to eliminate beef altogether.

“It’s not a threat because I don’t eat much beef,” said Bud Wilson, 20, a sophomore business administration student from Cocoa. Wilson said he would sue if he contracted the disease.

No previous cases of Mad Cow have shown a person-to-person contact; therefore, the disease is not contagious.

Patients of vCJD experience psychiatric symptoms such as dementia, or memory loss, ataxia and myoclonus.

Ataxia is the inability to coordinate muscular movements. Myoclonus is a neurologic condition that causes sudden, involuntary jerk-like contractions of a muscle or muscle group.

According to the American Medical Association, deaths from vCJD are a result of neurological dysfunction or pneumonia and dehydration.

The Miami Herald reported that the U.S. government administered DNA tests of the Washington state cow to see if it originated from Canada and is seeking a clearance stamp from the World Health Organization that would disassociate America from the disease.

According to the CDC, Mad Cow is very rare and it is safe to buy beef from the grocery store. The CDC said Mad Cow is not a plague in America.

Potter said students should not worry, but they should remember to be aware and to stay informed.

Contact diamond washington at diamondw02@yahoo.com.