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Emerg Infect Dis. 2001 Jan-Feb;7(1):6-16.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: background, evolution, and current concerns.

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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom, which began in 1986 and has affected nearly 200,000 cattle, is waning to a conclusion, but leaves in its wake an outbreak of human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, most probably resulting from the consumption of beef products contaminated by central nervous system tissue. Although averaging only 10-15 cases a year since its first appearance in 1994, its future magnitude and geographic distribution (in countries that have imported infected British cattle or cattle products, or have endogenous BSE) cannot yet be predicted. The possibility that large numbers of apparently healthy persons might be incubating the disease raises concerns about iatrogenic transmissions through instrumentation (surgery and medical diagnostic procedures) and blood and organ donations. Government agencies in many countries continue to implement new measures to minimize this risk.

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