A Texas man has died of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), which is commonly known as mad cow disease, bringing the number of U.S. deaths from the disease to four this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Texas man had previously been traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East. It is unknown if he became infected overseas or if he was infected locally, as the disease can lie dormant in the body for a while before exhibiting symptoms. The three other cases of the disease this year were contracted in the United Kingdom (2) and Saudi Arabia (1).
People with mad cow disease can have it for years without ever experiencing symptoms. However, once symptoms do occur, it quickly and irreversibly leads to death.
The deadly disease spreads to humans by consuming meat derived from cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). It cannot be transmitted from human to human. However, once a human is infected, mad cow disease causes a degeneration of both the brain and the spinal cord which eventually leads to death. The disease is not curable.
Symptoms of mad cow disease include dementia, memory loss, personality changes, hallucination, psychosis, depression, and other mild altering changes. Although the disease has no cure, scientists and doctors have been hoping to find a cure for years, with little luck.