Charlene Singh, who is believed to be the only U.S. resident with the human form of mad cow disease, died in her sleep on June 20. She was 25.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is the human strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a brain-wasting disease found in cows. People who eat meat from infected cows may develop vCJD. Younger people are more likely to develop the disease, which has an incubation period of 10 to 15 years.
There is no cure.
Singh was once a vibrant young woman. The Ft. Lauderdale resident earned a business degree from the University of Miami in May 2001. Six months later, she began to experience memory loss and changes in her behavior. American doctors prescribed antidepressants, but her health continued to decline. Soon she had difficulty walking and using fine motor skills.
Singh’s family sent her to Britain for a second opinion, and the doctors there diagnosed her as a probable vCJD case. Medical workers attempted several experimental treatments, but her health eventually deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t speak, eat or move.
An autopsy has been scheduled to obtain a definitive diagnosis of her brain-wasting illness.