Woman with human form of mad cow disease dies in US

A Florida woman suffering from the only known case in the United States of the human form of mad cow disease has died, her family said on Monday.

Charlene Singh died on Sunday at her home in Fort Lauderdale after being ill for several years with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is fatal and incurable. Her family believes she contracted it by eating contaminated meat in Britain more than a decade ago.

“I miss her smile, I miss her voice,” Singh’s mother, Alison Singh, told local media. “It’s like a nightmare.”

The brain-wasting illness is thought to be caused by eating processed food made from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Singh, 25, was born and raised in Britain, where an outbreak of the disease hit tens of thousands of cattle in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the more than 150 cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob worldwide have been reported in Britain.

Singh moved to Florida with her family in 1992 and became ill in late 2001.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Christine Pearson, said after Singh’s death that the department would send a team of experts to Florida for meetings with local health officials.

The CDC has monitored Singh’s case since it was confirmed in 2002.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle. Up to November 2003, more than 183,000 cases of the disease were confirmed in Britain in more than 35,000 herds, according to CDC figures.

Singh’s case was the only reported case of the illness reported to the CDC in the United States. Last December, BSE was diagnosed in an adult Holstein cow from Washington State that had probably been imported from Canada two years earlier.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD