Report: Man's death may have been linked to human form of mad cow disease

Sunday, May 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Health authorities are investigating the death of a 74-year-old Australian man who is believed to have shown symptoms of the brain-wasting illness linked to mad cow disease, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The man, who was not identified, died on March 30 after months of unusual behavior that doctors told his family may have been symptoms of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper said.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has killed about 80 Europeans since the mid-1990s, mostly in Britain, but no Australian has tested positive for it.

People are believed to contract the illness by eating meat products from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. It usually manifests itself in humans in the form of depression.

The Telegraph said the man had traveled to Britain and France in 1993 and had eaten meat products during his six-week vacation.

The man's widow, who did not wish to be identified, said he had acted ``very strangely'' in the months before his death. ``I thought he was going mad, to be honest,'' she was quoted as saying.

The Telegraph said doctors are conducting tests on the man's brain tissue, with a diagnosis expected within a week.