At least 43 cases of a mysterious brain illness that resembles mad cow disease have been reported in Canada.
The illness has similarities to the rare and fatal brain disorder known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and its variants, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is also known as Mad Cow Disease.
But although it is similar to CJD, officials say it is not the same disease.
Health officials in New Brunswick, Canada, are now scrambling to understand how 43 people contracted the illness and what the unknown neurological disease is. Five people have died, officials confirmed.
The first case was recorded in 2015. In 2020, there were 24 reported cases and so far in 2021, there have been six cases.
“A lot of scientific acumen will be required to pin it down to a cause,” Dr Neil Cashman who is investigating the mysterious illness said.
As the cases are being limited to certain regions, the illness ‘fits with the notion of an environmental toxin’.
‘It’s possible ongoing investigations will give us the cause in a week, or it’s possible it will give us the cause in a year,’ he said.
The Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)) outbreak in cattle was identified in the mid-1990s in the United Kingdom and it led to the slaughter of 4.4 million animals.
The human strain, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), killed more than 170 people in the UK.
Following the outbreak most nations banned import of British beef including Canada.
The illnesses began to appear from 2015, this was the same time when Canada lifted its beef embargo on the United Kingdom.
After thorough inspections by United States officials at British farms and abattoirs in the summer of 2019, the US lifted the British beef ban.