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Ministry notified undiagnosed neurological illness

Ministry notified of a person with undiagnosed neurological illness.

The Ministry of Health has been notified of a Waikato man with an undiagnosed progressive neurological disease.

Neurologists are querying, among other possible diagnoses, the likelihood that this could be Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

In New Zealand, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a notifiable illness and a central register is held at the University of Otago. There are several types of Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease including hereditary, sporadic and variant.

Sporadic classic Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease occurs in about one in one million people, and accordingly New Zealand has about three deaths per year from this condition. The condition was also linked to neurosurgery or treatment with human growth hormone. These no longer pose a risk. This usually affects people in the 45 - 65+ age group.

A new disease, variant CJD was identified in the United Kingdom in 1996 and found in young people. Neurologists in Waikato have removed a tonsil from the man, which has been sent to Australia for analysis. Variant CJD has been linked with Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE) in the United Kingdom. Infected cows were thought to have entered the food chain.

Information was first sent out to the health sector in 1996 following the discovery of the disease in the United Kingdom. The Ministry of Health has been continuously updating and reviewing policy in regard to this disease. In June 2003, a CJD response group was convened to review sector needs for information on CJD and to continue to advise the Ministry of Health.

Director of Public Health, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said the Ministry of Health was closely monitoring the situation.

“At this time we are uncertain as what the illness is and we will await the results of tests before taking any further action if necessary.

“The public should be reassured that New Zealand has had measures in place since 1989, and banned imported food from the UK in 1996, to ensure the safety of our food supply,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

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