Allen County Health officials suspect that four deaths in the Fort Wayne area over the last five months may have been the result of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Autopsy results are still pending, but the Allen County Health Commissioner alerted the state health department after the third death. Indiana Department of Health Epidemiologist Bob Teclaw says the fatal neurological disorder generally occurs in about one out of every one million Americans a year. He says four cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in a single metropolitan area could simply be the result of coincidence.
Teclaw says there is evidence to suggest that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and that a cluster of Creutzfeldt-Jakob deaths could be the result of hereditary transmission, though he doubts that’s the case in Allen County. Teclaw emphasizes that while the two diseases are similar, Creutzfeldt-Jakob is not the same as Mad Cow Disease. He says there are only three documented cases of Mad Cow Disease occurring in humans in the United States, and that each of those cases occurred in individuals who spent significant time outside the country.
Teclaw says state officials are remaining in touch with the CDC in Atlanta as they conduct their investigation into the Fort Wayne area deaths. Brain material from two of the victims will be analyzed at Case Western Reserve University, but Teclaw says it will take two to three months for results to become available.