The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

 
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a brain disorder caused by prions, proteins that induce abnormal folding of normal brain proteins. About 85 percent of CJD cases occur sporadically and have unknown origins. The remaining cases are either familial (caused by inherited gene mutations) or iatrogenic (caused by contaminated instruments used during medical treatments or by transplants from infected organ donors). Most CJD cases are seen in people over the age of 50. Like most prion diseases, degeneration occurs rapidly after the onset of the disease and death usually occurs within 1 year. A variant of CJD (vCJD) affects people at a younger age, with the median age of death being 28 years. Exposure, probably through contaminated food, to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a disease of cattle commonly called “mad cow disease,” is the most likely cause of vCJD.

Symptoms
CJD patients undergo rapid personality changes and dementia. Neurological signs, such as unsteadiness and involuntary movement, appear early on. Symptoms vary slightly in vCJD, which is characterized by depression and occasional psychosis. Neurological symptoms do not develop until later in the disease progression. Both variations of the disease are accompanied by symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle stiffness, sleepiness, speech impairment, confusion, and lack of coordination.

Treatment
Currently there is no cure for CJD. Certain medications, such as interleukins, can slow the disease progression. As with other cases of dementia, counseling and behavior modification may help patients control dangerous or inappropriate behaviors.

Prevention
There are no known ways to prevent sporadic or familial CJD. Hospitals have specific procedures and regulations regarding transfusions and equipment usage in order to prevent iatrogenic CJD. vCJD can be avoided by strict regulations on food supply, including regulation of animal feed and good surveillance systems for tracking cattle health.

Sources:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/cjd/
http://www.who.int/topics/creutzfeldtjakob_syndrome/en/
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease/overview.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease/DS00531/DSECTION=prevention

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What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Washing your hands with soaps that have residue-producing antibacterial products, such as those containing the chemical triclosan, have been proven to confer health benefits.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Washing with regular soap is considered the most important way to prevent disease transmission. Routine consumer use of residue-producing antibacterial products has no added benefit and may actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.

  • Correct!

    Washing with regular soap is considered the most important way to prevent disease transmission. Routine consumer use of residue-producing antibacterial products has no added benefit and may actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.

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