ABC TV World News May 12, 1997--Transcript of Program on Possible Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) Epidemic in the United States

Peter Jennings:
On Your Health tonight, the good news and the bad. The good news is that people may not be contracting Alzheimers disease as often as we think. The bad news is that they may be getting something worse instead. We agree that's pretty harsh language to describe a situation that has not been getting much public attention. But it is fairly accurate. This is about something called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. It is fatal. It destroys your brain, and what is worse it is infectious. Worthy of notice, without a doubt. Here's ABC's John McKenzie.

[Voice over - John McKenzie Photo of Marie and Calvin Farris (Mr. & Mrs. Calvin Farris)] Marie Farris was 63 years old when suddenly she began displaying frightening symptoms...

[Cut to Voice of Calvin Farris and pan to closeup of Marie's calm, smiling face] She just barely knew her first name. She no

[Cut to live interview Calvin Farris] longer could write and when she was sittin' she would look like she was lookin' off into space all the time.

[Intercut between two shot Calvin Farris and John McKenzie and mid shot Calvin Farris as Calvin continues] The doctor told us it was Alzheimers disease.

[Cut to photo of very smiling, happy Marie - voice over John McKenzie] But, her decline seemed too rapid to be Alzheimers. Within just four weeks her condition had worsened dramatically.

[Cut to photo of wild eyed, emaciated, yellow tinted skinned, visibly aged Marie - voice over continues] So the family sought a second opinion.

[Cut to outside shot of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - voice over continues] Here at the University of Iowa doctors reached a different conclusion.

[Cut to close up of Marie Farris' medical record indicating admission date 12/17/9 and discharge 12/20/9 without year visible - voice over continues] Marie Farris suffered from CJD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

[pan down medical record and highlight "Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease" - new, unidentified voice over] It can be easily missed for a couple of reasons, first of all...

[Cut to interview of voice over Dr. Robert Rodnitzky - University of Iowa Hospital] the characteristic features that distinguish it from Alzheimers are often very subtle early in the course of the illness and, secondarily, not every physician will recognize those characteristic signs.

[Cut to unflattering, head shot photo of aged Marie Farris sitting in easy chair - voice over John McKenzie] The ordeal of Marie Farris raises disturbing questions about how many other mistakes have been made ...

[Cut to head shot of aged Marie Farris staring blankly lying in bed with Pomeranian dog - voice over continues] how many of the 4 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimers

[Pan out to show half of bed and knit afgan/quilt] actually have CJD.

[Cut to mid shot of man at desk in white physician's coat making entries into record book - voice over continues] Based largely on reports from doctors around the country, health officials have maintained there only about 250 new cases of CJD in this country each year.

[Cut to cascade graphic of medical reports with barely visible/readable titles like "Diagnosis of Dementia" - voice over continues] But several autopsy studies suggest this disease has been under diagnosed.

[Cut to lab where two doctors in full gowns with eye/face shields are conducting an autopsy (body mostly shielded from view) - voice over continues] The studies show that when pathologists actually did autopsies and examined brain tissue from patients with Alzheimers and other brain disorders, they uncovered hidden cases of CJD, anywhere from about 1% to 13%.

[Cut to mid shot of John McKenzie in a lab with microscopes and lab equipment in background] John McKenzie: These preliminary findings suggest a public health problem is being overlooked. If larger autopsy studies at more hospitals in this country confirmed that even 1% of Alzheimers patients had CJD that would mean 40,000 cases. And each undetected case is significant because, unlike Alzheimers, CJD is infectious.

[Cut to closeup of scrub up of shaved skull prior to brain surgery - cut out to mid shot of operating room and full scrubs personnel preparing patient - voice over John McKenzie] Even with standard sterilization practices, this lethal disease can be transmitted from patient to patient

[Cut to mid shot operating room personnel donning surgical gloves, focus on gloves - voice over continues] through

[cut to shot of surgical instruments laid out pre operation] neurosurgical instruments, as well as

[Cut to head shot of doctor in scrubs, mask and surgical glasses with magnifying inserts - voice over continues] transplants of certain brain tissue and corneas

[Cut to mid shot operating team similarly dressed conducting operation] At least 100 people have been infected this way.

[Cut to mid shot John McKenzie and Dr. Laura Mandelidis sitting at lab table while Dr. Manuelidis, with gloved hands, handles fixed human brain - voice over continues] Dr. Manuelidis: This part of the brain, is involved ...

[Simultaneous voice over] Dr. Laura Manuelidis, a neuropathologist at Yale Medical School, has used

[Cut to close up of brain in Dr. Manuelidis' hands] brain samples to uncover hidden cases of CJD

[Cut to mid shot Dr. Manuelidis] Dr. Manuelidis: It's a very good idea to take a closer look at Alzheimer's patients and other people who are written off as having typical senile dementias because there may be a hidden group in those patients.

[Cut to head shot of Michael Hansen of the Consumer Policy Institute interview] Michael Hansen: That's why we're saying we have to find out. Because if we find out

[Intercut to two shot Hansen and McKenzie - Hansen continues] that there is much higher CJD rates than we thought, that suggests that this explosion happened because of something and they would start to look for infectious sources.

[Cut to Dr. Manuelidis and colleague reviewing DNA sequences on backlighted viewer board - voice over John McKenzie] To start looking more closely at how

[Cut to close up of pencil pointing to DNA sequence - voice over continues] CJD might be spreading.

[Cut to more mid shot of doctors performing brain surgery - voice over continues] To look at medical supplies

[Cut to customers holding their red plastic shopping baskets while standing in front of supermarket meat/deli counter case - voice over continues] even food supplies, and answer

[Cut to mid shot photo of old, ill Marie Farris staring blankly from her bed - voice over continues] the question, "How do people like Marie Farris get this disease?"

[Pan to close up of Marie Farris' blank, old face - voice over continues] John McKenzie, ABC News, Waterloo, Iowa.

[Cut to Peter Jennings] Peter Jennings: If you would like more information about this or any of our reports on Your Health, you can reach us through e-mail. It's

End of Report

Later on the late night/early morning/all night edition of ABC World News, the anchor introduced a shortened version of the segment.

The report ran approx. 3:30 minutes in its original form and approx. 2:15 minutes in its shortened form.

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