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Annu Rev Public Health. 2005;26:191-212.

The public health impact of prion diseases.

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  • 1Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA. EBelay@cdc.gov


Several prion disease-related human health risks from an exogenous source can be identified in the United States, including the iatrogenic transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the possible occurrence of variant CJD (vCJD), and potential zoonotic transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Although cross-species transmission of prion diseases seems to be limited by an apparent "species barrier," the occurrence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its transmission to humans indicate that animal prion diseases can pose a significant public health risk. Recent reports of secondary person-to-person spread of vCJD via blood products and detection of vCJD transmission in a patient heterozygous at codon 129 further illustrate the potential public health impacts of BSE.

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