First Case of vCJD in U.S.?

ATLANTA - Authorities from the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are examining a 22-year-old living in Florida thought to have variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

The only method of diagnosing vCJD for certain is during an autopsy. The young woman is a citizen of the United Kingdom, where some 100 other residents have become ill with the brain-wasting disease.

Although there is still nothing certain about this disease, it is believed that humans become infected with variant CJD from eating meat that is tainted with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE may be caused by cows being fed remnants of other animals. Their proteins become confused in the process, causing small holes in their brain, or causing it to become spongiform. This leads to their "madness."

American officials noted repeatedly that the woman was probably infected while living in the United Kingdom. If her case is confirmed, she would be the first reported person in the United States to have vCJD.

An epidemiologist working with the CDC and the state's department of health will continue researching the probable cause of infection and the woman's condition.