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First North American death of Mad Cow disease reported
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See related ENS Story (08/08/02): First North American Dies from Mad Cow Disease.

Source: IndyMedia.

First North American death of Mad Cow disease reported (months after it happened (english) 6:17am Thu Aug 8 '02 (Modified on 12:43pm Thu Aug 8 '02) article#196762

According to the headlines in this mornings Saskatoon Star Pheonix a man died earlier this year in Saskatoon from Mad Cow Disease. The story finally became news worthy now that the hospital is afraid of possible negligence law suites over the use a potentially contaminated endoscope that was used on seventy other patients...

This follows a story several weeks ago about problems facing Elk ranchers in Saskatchewan who are unable to afford feed for their elk due to the drought, and cannot sell their elk because of the impact of fears of Mad Cow disease in the elk herds. The ranchers were proposing to let the elk run free in the wild, rather than letting them starve to death, but the risk of the elk spreading 'Mad Elk disease' in the wild was causing controversy (it is also possible that the elk ranchers were using the threat of releasing the elk into the wild as a way of leveraging some cash bail out payments for elk feed).


What is strange about this Mad Cow death is that, apparently, in North America, when someone dies of Mad Cow disease it is not considered news worthy, and this story is only breaking now, months after the death occured, because of the fear of lawsuits over negligence on the part of the hospital. The prions that are the cause of Mad Cow disease can only be destroyed by high temperature burning (they survive the cooking process for beef, for example). They are resistant to disinfectants, and therefore, since the same endoscope was used on the infected patient and then on seventy other patients, the possibility exists that the prions survived on the instrument, and the hence the fear of lawsuits.

In the hospitals favor is the fact that mad cow disease can only be diagosed in a post mortem autopsy, since there is currently no way to examine the brain tissue of a living person for evidence of the prions. Similarly, Alzheimers can only be diagnosed by emperical observations of a patients behavior, and can only be confirmed after death, by examining the brain. Therefore, although this has become the first reported death of Mad Cow disease in North America, it might not be the first death, since such deaths are apparently not reported, and this one would not be making the news now if the hospital, fearing a lawsuit, had not gone public to inform the seventy patients of the risk. As well it is possible that cases of Alzheimers where there was no post mortem autopsy could actually be unreported (unconfirmed) cases of CJD, in particular in the cases of what is known as 'Early onset Alzheimers' that affects young people.

For the past couple of years I have been going on about Mad Cow disease and posting Mad Cow stories on my own website, and so to me there is something particularly ironic that the first 'reported' death of Mad Cow disease in North America happened in my hometown (earlier this spring) just 30 blocks away from where I live.


And it also deeply disturbing that it takes circumstances such as this to publicize deaths of CJD, and makes one wonder if, while this is the first 'reported' case of mad cow disease, and given the strange circumstances under which it was finally reported, if it is not in the fact the first known death of Mad Cow disease in North America, since apparently these things aren't newsworthy, or powerful special interests are at work to make sure they do not become newsworthy?

Some links to previous Mad Cow stories...

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Michael R. Meuser
Data Research & GIS Specialist is an independent firm specializing in GIS project development and data research. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and our services.

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