Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (cont.)
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Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Symptoms and Signs
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Infected adult cattle may develop signs of the disease slowly. It may take from two to eight years from the time an animal becomes infected until it first shows signs of disease. Symptoms in the animal include a change in attitude and behavior, gradual uncoordinated movements, trouble standing and walking, weight loss despite having an appetite, and decreased milk production. Eventually the animal dies. From the onset of symptoms, the animal deteriorates until it either dies or is destroyed (cattle who cannot stand are called "downers"). This disease process may take from two weeks to six months.
Similar symptoms may develop in humans: muscle spasms, lack of muscle control, worsening problems with memory.
Researchers looked at the first 100 people to develop vCJD in the United Kingdom and found psychiatric symptoms in early stages of the disease. These included depression, withdrawal, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Within four months of the disease onset, those affected developed poor memory and an unsteady gait.
When Should I Call the Doctor about Mad Cow Disease?
People or their caregivers should seek medical care if a person is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of BSE or vCJD such as memory problems or muscle control, especially in younger individuals.
Diagnosis of Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
A health-care professional would do initial testing similar to checking for dementia -- looking for progressive deterioration of the patient's ability to think and control movement.
Treatment of Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Patients may be asked to stop taking any medications that could affect memory or cause confusion. A doctor may refer a person to specialists in neurology and infectious diseases, and the doctor will provide medications to ease symptoms. If patients develop seizures, for example, they may be given drugs to help control them.
But the reality is that all prion diseases cause death. There are no effective treatments available. Progression from symptoms to diagnosis to death may be rapid (from eight months for sporadic CJD to up to 60 months for GSS).
Continuing laboratory testing is looking at a number of medications to prevent development of prion disease in animals. Work continues on experimental vaccines to delay or prevent the effects of prion disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2016
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Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) are related disorders.