You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
These are progressive fatal infections of the brain caused by an infectious protein particle called a prion. These diseases are some of a group of brain infections known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE).
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are notifiable conditions1
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a very rare illness, affecting about one person per million population worldwide, and has been recognised for about 80 years. In almost all cases the source of infection is not apparent – these are called sporadic cases.
Some cases (a small number) are the result of a genetic abnormality and run in families.
An even smaller number have been linked to medical treatment, such as use of human pituitary hormones, corneal transplants or neurosurgery.
Since 1995 a new disease similar to classic CJD has been recognised, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). To date there have been about 150 probable or proven cases, most of which have occurred in the United Kingdom. It is believed almost all of these cases are related to a massive epidemic of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as 'mad cow disease', in the United Kingdom which peaked in 1992 to 1993. People became infected by eating cattle products contaminated with the BSE prion.
There have been recent reports of transmission of vCJD by blood transfusion.
Most cases of classic CJD occur in people over 50 years of age. Symptoms include:
vCJD has several important differences from CJD:
The diagnosis is suggested by:
Currently, diagnosis of CJD can only be confirmed by laboratory examination of brain material (usually after death).
Diagnosis of vCJD can also be made by biopsy of the tonsils.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
For CJD, from 15 months to more than 30 years.
Unknown for vCJD because it is a new disease, but thought to be also from years to decades.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Routine social or community contact with a person with CJD or vCJD carries no risk of spread. Infected brain tissue is infectious before and after onset of symptoms.
Currently there is no available vaccine or treatment and these conditions appear to be always fatal.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.