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Is CJD an infectious disease?

Mar 18, 1997

Rick, while giving blood this week, I was alerted in one of the fliers about a disease called CJD (Crutzfeld-Jakob), where a guy who has it can show no symptoms for several years (like HIV). Problem is, there's no test to detect it. I know that you can get this disease from eating beef, but it it also transmitted sexually, or by blood? What can people do to protect themselves from it? Thanks.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is an extremely rare neurological disease (approximately 1 case/million people/year worldwide). It is caused by an infectious agent called a prion (an infectious protein). There is no evidence that this infection is sexually transmitted. There has been a suggestion that this disease may be transmitted via a blood transfusion, but this has still not been definitively proven. This disease has been linked to tissue transplants, especially transplants involving neural and related tissue. Persons who have received neural tissue transplants should consider not donating blood, until we learn more to determine whether this disease is transmitted via blood transfusions or not. But to date, there is no evidence that it has been transmitted sexually.

The media has widely reported that this disease is linked to "Mad Cow Disease", and that you can get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by eating beef. Despite these widespread media reports, we have yet to see any definitive or conclusive data that eating beef can cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. All the data is purely circumstantial, and we have yet to prove that eating beef will give a person this disease.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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