Mad cow disease strikes woman in Hong Kong

Mad cow disease strikes woman in Hong Kong

June 15, 2001 Toronto Star

A Chinese woman is suffering from the human form of mad cow disease the first known case of the lethal brain-wasting ailment in Hong Kong.

Britain's National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit confirmed that the unidentified 34-year-old woman has new-variant CJD (nvCJD), according to Prince of Wales Hospital here, where the woman is a patient.

Neurologist Richard Kay said last week that the woman probably contracted the disease from eating beef in Britain. Her symptoms include a progressive neurological disorder, involuntary limb movements and dementia, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, 105 cases of nvCJD have been reported worldwide since the mid-1990s, most of them in Britain. People are believed to contract the illness by eating meat from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

The woman's case underlines statements yesterday from an international conference on mad cow disease held in Paris this week.

Declaring that BSE has become a global problem, more than 150 veterinarians, food safety experts and health officials recommended that countries assess their risk of developing BSE not only within cattle herds but also among sheep and goats.

"BSE . . . should be considered as an international issue, as potentially infected BSE materials have been distributed throughout the world through trade of live cattle, certain cattle products and by-products," said a joint statement issued at the end of the four-day meeting.

The meeting, organized by the World Health Organization, international animal health organization OIE and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was held as the Czech Republic became the first country outside western Europe to fall victim to BSE.

Mad cow disease is widely believed to have spread first in Britain and then to continental Europe through feeding of meat and bone meal made from infected ruminants to other ruminants.

Conference participants recommended that all countries consider banning this practice.

Conference participants also suggested it was only a matter of time before other countries besides the Czech Republic detect BSE for the first time.

"It's safe to say that eastern Europe may have imported sizable amounts of risk, given the sheer trade figures that we have. Another area may indeed be the near and Middle East," Samuel Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division at the FAO, said at a news briefing.

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