Jun 22, 2004 (CIDRAP News) A young Florida woman who suffered from a probable case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) died Jun 20, apparently becoming the disease's first victim in the United States, according to news service reports.
Charlene Singh, 25, died in Fort Lauderdale, according to a Miami Herald report. She was believed to have contracted vCJD, the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, while living in the United Kingdom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the existence of a probable case of vCJD in a Florida woman in April 2002. At that time the agency said her clinical condition and history were consistent with vCJD acquired in Britain. The diagnosis can be confirmed only by studying brain tissue obtained by biopsy or after death, according to the CDC.
The CDC plans to investigate Singh's case, according to the Herald and other news reports.
Variant CJD is believed to be caused by eating meat products from cattle infected with BSE. An Associated Press report said Singh's parents believe she ate contaminated beef in Britain sometime before 1992.
The Herald story said Singh moved from England to Florida with her father in 1992. She graduated from the University of Miami in 2001 and had been planning to attend law school before she became ill, the story said.
A widespread outbreak of BSE in British cattle was first identified in 1986. The human form of the disease emerged in Britain in the 1990s and has killed about 140 people there. The only known case of BSE in the United States was discovered in a cow in Washington state last December.
Singh's mother, Alison Singh, told the Herald she is still angry at the British government for not doing more to warn the public about vCJD in the early 1990s.
April 2002 CDC news release about Florida vCJD case