View Full Version : This one is very sad indeed...

04-09-2008, 15:09
I feel really bad for this woman and her daughter. Who would of expected this?


Woman, 22, Suspected to Have One-in-a-Million Disease After Gastric Bypass Surgery
Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Doctors suspect a 22-year-old Virginia woman has contracted the human variant of mad cow disease shortly after she had gastric bypass surgery, WAVY-TV reports.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which affects roughly one-in-a-million people, is a degenerative and fatal brain disorder has been linked to tainted medical instruments and certain medical procedures, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Aretha Vinson’s health began to deteriorate three months ago, just after she had the surgery. First, her motor skills started to go and her memory faded. Now, the Portsmouth, Va., resident lies unconscious in a hospital bed.

There is no cure or treatment for the disease.

"The pain is just excruciating," said Vinson's mother, Robin. "I feel there's been a part of my life ripped from me."

04-09-2008, 18:41
The association with progressive neurological deterioration is pertinent to those of you that have to live/survive in the field under extreme conditions and eat what is available. Avoiding brain, most raw meat, some of the organs of animals due to viral contamination that can lead to kuru or J-C disease.....both, eventually fatal.
I am sure SERE and other field training give you the education necessary to not only gain nutrition but avoid the risk of these diseases...this is where the 'weekend' warrior that has not been taught what to avoid gets really sick once back in the civilized world....if they make it that far.


04-10-2008, 04:33
Sound advice SS. For some elements of our military this becomes especially touchy when, in the process of integration into the tribal community, it is expected that you sleep, live and yes eat as they do.
My foggy brain seems to recall a tragic case of an SF SSG in the early times of the Afghan campaign who received a number of disciplinary actions, eventually being relieved of duty and shipped back to the States only to later be found to have J-C Disease. Careful delving into his activities revealed he had indeed been provided raw goat brain as an honored guest from an Afghan mountain tribe some weeks/months before.
He was exonerated of all negativity and his record appropriately scrubbed. Rank and status renewed. I do believe he was then medically retired with 100% disability before he died.

Yet one more of the "hidden hazards" the QP's of today are faced with from a seemingly harmless activity.


04-11-2008, 21:46
Part 1

By NANCY BARR CANSON / Special Contributor to The
Dallas Morning News

KARNACK, Texas - Staff Sgt. James Alford can't talk.
He doesn't recognize his wife. His head shakes, his
hands tremble.

He is agitated, restless, diapered and helpless,
requiring round-the-clock care from his family. Unable
to coordinate his fingers and hands, the former
marathon runner can still walk, with assistance, and
his daily ritual is to unsteadily "walk the floor," as
his wife, Army Spec. Amber Alford, describes it.

In April, the Green Beret and Bronze Star recipient
was sent home from Iraq by the Army. But it wasn't
because he badly needed medical care.

"They sent him home to be court-martialed," said his
mother, Gail Alford, a former Army nurse. "They wanted
to strip him of his Special Forces tab. They wanted
him out of the Army."

Army officials say they did not realize the
24-year-old soldier's increasingly erratic behavior
was an early symptom of the difficult-to-diagnose
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. CJD is a fatal,
degenerative brain disorder that attacks the human
brain in the same way that "mad cow" disease attacks

Staff Sgt. Alford was disciplined and demoted.
Although the Army has restored his rank and corrected
what it admits was a mistake, the Alfords - a family
in which many members have served in the armed forces
- question how this could have happened.

"I don't blame the Army for this disease," said his
father, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Alford,
who was in the service 34 years. "I blame them for how
they treated my son. They treated him like yesterday's
garbage. They reduced his rank. They called him an
idiot, called him stupid - this is a wounded soldier.
It's no different than if he had taken a bullet to the

The family has asked for and received acknowledgement
that commanders in the 5th Special Forces Group erred.

"It's a terrible thing that happened," said Maj.
Robert E. Gowan, public affairs officer for the
Special Forces. "Everyone is deeply sorry for Sergeant
Alford and his family. I think personal apologies,
apologies that really mean something, will happen in

During his first six years in the Army, Staff Sgt.
Alford was ranked an "excellent" soldier in every
evaluation. He was awarded two Army Commendation
medals, five Army Achievement medals, an Army Good
Conduct Medal, numerous division ribbons and, in May
2002, the Bronze Star for "peerless expertise" in

04-11-2008, 21:47
Part 2

Changing behavior

But four months later, changes in his behavior were
noted. He went from being lauded for his
"exceptionally meritorious service," "gallant conduct"
and "incisive competence" to being called an
irresponsible failure. In September 2002, he was
disciplined for losing his assault vest and other
military items. He was AWOL for several days from his
post in Fort Campbell, Ky., and later demoted from
staff sergeant to sergeant.

"In retrospect, when he got back from Afghanistan,
there were signs," his mother said. "But we thought it
was combat stress. We didn't know what it was."

No one knew that the changes in Staff Sgt. Alford's
personality - forgetfulness and impaired judgment -
were early symptoms of CJD.

Staff Sgt. Alford's wife, who was working with Army
intelligence before her husband's illness, was
training in California during this period, and his
parents saw him only briefly at Christmas before he
was deployed to Kuwait in January.

In Kuwait, as his condition worsened, his conduct
became more erratic. He received a written order to
carry a note pad "to write instructions down to ensure
they are not forgotten." His records show he was
placed on probation, accused of "dereliction of duty"
and "larceny," of losing his protective mask, stealing
another soldier's mask, failing to report for duty
four times and lying to superiors.

His commander wrote on April 10 that he would initiate
action to revoke Staff Sgt. Alford's Special Forces

04-11-2008, 21:48
Part 3

Critical comments

"Your conduct is inconsistent with the integrity and
professionalism required by a Special Forces soldier,"
wrote Lt. Col. Christopher E. Conner of the 2nd
Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group Headquarters in
Kuwait. "I do not believe you are suitable for further
Special Forces duty." The Alfords were later told that
Staff Sgt. Alford had been seen by a doctor in Kuwait,
who reportedly said nothing was wrong with him. A
psychiatrist in Kuwait reportedly said that he was
"faking it."

"Jamie was a good soldier," said his mother, who has
left her job to care for her son. "When all this
started happening, anyone should have known he was

The cause of Staff Sgt. Alford's disease, diagnosed as
"sporadic" CJD, is unknown.

CJD is a fatal degenerative brain disease in which
early symptoms of behavioral changes and memory loss
lead to severe mental impairment, dementia, loss of
coordination, involuntary jerking movements, loss of
speech, loss of vision, coma and death. Sporadic CJD
is said to occur spontaneously, while new variant CJD
is caused by eating beef contaminated with mad cow

Sporadic CJD usually affects elderly patients, who
often die within six months of the onset of symptoms.
The duration of new variant CJD symptoms is often 18
months or more, and the median age of death is 28.

Staff Sgt. Alford showed clinical symptoms of new
variant CJD, but his brain pathology was consistent
with sporadic CJD. The Alfords suspect he might have
contracted the disease by eating contaminated beef
somewhere. During the past six years, he was deployed
to Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Uzbekistan,
Afghanistan, Thailand, France and England.

But they also see another possibility.

Staff Sgt. Alford told his doctors and his family that
he ate sheep's brain when serving in Oman two years

"As a Green Beret, he lived among the people," said
his wife, Spec. Alford. "He said the locals served him
the head of a sheep. It was considered an honor."

But while experts say cattle in Great Britain
contracted mad cow disease from eating
scrapie-infected sheep parts, they don't believe the
disease is transmissible from sheep to people - no
human has been proved to have contracted "mad sheep

It's also theoretically possible that the soldier was
given a contaminated vaccine.

In 2001, certain vaccine manufacturers admitted that
they were using fetal calf serum and other materials
from cattle raised in countries at high risk for mad
cow disease, in spite of years of warnings from the
Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines include
those to prevent polio, diphtheria, tetanus and

"Jamie was given all those," his father said.

No one has been known to have contracted the disease
from a contaminated vaccine, and the FDA puts the odds
of a vaccine being tainted with mad cow disease at 1
in 40 million doses.

But the odds of Staff Sgt. Alford getting CJD
"spontaneously" are one in 100 million, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His family realizes that the cause of his disease is
likely to remain a mystery.

Now, in the final months of his illness, Jamie is fed
intravenously and sedated to help him sleep. He stares
blankly and doesn't recognize his family. His wife,
brother, parents and grandparents help him in his
walking ritual.

"We walk the floor," his wife said. "I hold onto him
so he won't fall down. We just walk across the living
room and back and forth. He'll do that for hours and
hours. It's like he can't be still."

The family knows it is only a matter of days or weeks
before he may go blind and lapse into a coma.

He is expected to die before Christmas.

Soldier sent home

On April 22, Staff Sgt. Alford was sent home to Big
Rock, Tenn., near his Army post at Fort Campbell.

"His hands were shaking," said his neighbor Justin
Hawkins, 23. "He couldn't turn his keys. He wasn't
able to talk right. Something was really wrong with
him, but we didn't know what. He just seemed really
shook up and frightened."

The utilities were disconnected. Mr. Hawkins said he
unlocked the house and called the power company. His
mother, Beverly Hawkins, contacted the Alfords in
Texas on April 26.

Neither they nor their daughter-in-law had had any
communication with Staff Sgt. Alford for months.

"I had a 24-year-old son I thought was fighting a war
in Iraq, and I find out from his neighbor that he's
sick in Tennessee," Mrs. Alford said.

The Alfords drove about 600 miles to see their son
that night.

"He had lost 30 pounds," his mother said. "He looked
like a skeleton. ... He couldn't drink from a glass.
He couldn't hold a pen or eat with a fork. He couldn't
button a shirt, couldn't drive, couldn't say his
wife's name - how could anyone not have known he was

The Alfords took their son to the hospital emergency
room, then to an Army medical clinic. From the
Blanchfield Army Hospital, he was sent to the
veteran's hospital in Nashville, where Dr. Steve J.
Williams, clinical fellow in the Division of
Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical
Center, eventually diagnosed CJD.

"I was very struck by Jamie's symptoms," Dr. Williams
said. "I had never seen a patient like Jamie before."

Dr. Williams said Jamie's superiors might not have
realized he was ill because Jamie tried so hard to
hide his symptoms.

"Jamie was very smart," Dr. Williams said. "He was
tremendously resourceful. He tried to hide his disease
as long as he could. He tried to compensate. When I
asked him his birth date, he glanced at his nametag.
He wanted so much to get it right."

A brain biopsy was performed May 29, and the sporadic
CJD diagnosis was confirmed at the Armed Forces
Institute of Pathology two weeks later. The National
Prion Disease Surveillance Center also examined the
brain tissue, to confirm it was not a case of new
variant CJD.

In May, Staff Sgt. Alford was still able to recall and
describe, in broken sentences, how he was treated by
his superiors in Kuwait.

"They called him stupid, called him lazy," his father
said. "It made him so angry and there was nothing he
could do."

Mr. Alford's other son, Billy, is in the National
Guard. Both of Jamie Alford's grandfathers and two
great-uncles fought in World War II. Mr. Alford says
he still loves the military.

"But we need to remove cruel commanders," he said.

Doctors who treated Staff Sgt. Alford wrote letters
supporting the family's efforts to correct his record
and restore his rank.

The Alfords filed paperwork to challenge the demotion.
And they asked for apologies from 12 individuals in
the 5th Special Forces Group who they say were
"involved in the persecution both verbally and
physically" of their son.

U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, intervened on the
Alfords' behalf and received a reply from the Army on
July 30.

'Deepest concerns'

"The 5th SFG(A) would like to express its deepest
concerns to Sergeant Alford and his family," wrote Lt.
Col. Johan C. Haraldsen from the Office of Special
Inquiries at Fort Campbell. "His disease was not known
prior to or during his [Uniform Code of Military
Justice] proceedings. All actions taken by the 5th
SFG(A) involving Sergeant Alford were appropriate
based on the best information available at that time."

The Alfords received no reply to their application to
correct Staff Sgt. Alford's record, and so they sought
help from the Army Review Boards Agency. That request
was denied in August in a letter stating the Alfords
had not exhausted other remedies.

Spec. Alford, said her husband's Green Beret teammates
had been helpful and supportive during this ordeal.

"His team has been fantastic," she said. "They call
when they can and ask how he's doing. They helped me
move all our stuff out of our house in Tennessee.

"That was hard," she said. "That's when it hit me that
he'd never be coming back."

Mr. Sandlin's office and The Dallas Morning News made
further inquiries, and the Alfords were informed Sept.
24 that the Army had reinstated Staff Sgt. Alford's

"The Army tries to take care of its people as best it
can," said Maj. Gowan of the Special Forces. "Getting
things done like this often takes a long time. They're
trying to do the right thing and act with compassion
in light of Sergeant Alford's misfortune."

Surrounded by his family, Staff Sgt. Alford was in the
hospital with a kidney infection when his father
received the news in a phone call from the major who
is second in command of the battalion.

"He's a good man," Mr. Alford said. "He asked about
Jamie. He assured us that everything had been
corrected. ... It took too long. But we're glad it's
finally done."

Staff Sgt. Alford is unable to comprehend that he's
been vindicated.

But his father confessed that he told a white lie to
his son three months ago, when Jamie was still able to

"I told him they'd already corrected it," Mr. Alford
said. "I wanted him to know that. If I had waited 'til
now it would have been too late."

05-03-2008, 20:08
Can you get this if the goat or pig brain is cooked? I have eaten both while serving, and have always been curious about how stupid this was. FWIW they were both cooked.

05-03-2008, 21:39
My mother does some research on this- and it's believed cooking temperatures have no affect on this disease. I know in Colorado with chronic wasting disease (a variant of CJD and mad cow that affects elk and deer) affecting wildlife populations in various parts of the state, it's a really good idea to get your heads tested before consumption. A few years ago there were a couple of hunters in Wisconsin that came up with CJD that they suspect came from a CWD infected deer. My mother also worked with a gal that came up with CJD after researching it for thirty years...it's scary stuff!

05-05-2008, 09:17
Guys, I'm shooting off the top of my head, but this is important!

The culprit here is Prions, a good friend of ours was awarded the Nobel Prize (Physiology of Medicine) for discoverig Prions...Stan Prusiner attempted every thing he could think of to kill the little buggers, to no avail! He isolated them from the host, and even microwaved them, couldn't kill them! So if they are present and you consume them, you are at risk! The text below is from the CDC website.

Prion Diseases
About Prion Diseases

Collage: Cattle at a trough and a buck deer in the wild.
Cattle at a trough, and a buck deer in the wild. (Courtesy Ermias Belay)
Prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals. They are distinguished by long incubation periods, characteristic spongiform changes associated with neuronal loss, and a failure to induce inflammatory response.

The causative agent of TSEs is believed to be a prion. A prion is an abnormal, transmissible agent that is able to induce abnormal folding of normal cellular prion proteins in the brain, leading to brain damage and the characteristics signs and symptoms of the disease. Prion diseases are usually rapidly progressive and always fatal.
A List of Prion Diseases

Listed below are the prion diseases identified to date. Click the linked diseases to go to their respective topic sites. CDC does not currently offer information here on every prion disease listed.

Human Prion Diseases

* Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
* Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)
* Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Syndrome
* Fatal Familial Insomnia
* Kuru

Animal Prion Diseases

* Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
* Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
* Scrapie
* Transmissible mink encephalopathy
* Feline spongiform encephalopathy
* Ungulate spongiform encephalopathy

Links to Organizations Outside CDC

National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center
(From the Division of Neuropathology, Case Western Reserve University. National CJD surveillance system established in collaboration with CDC.)

BSE/TSE Action Plan of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
The BSE/TSE Action Plan of DHHS has four major components:
• Surveillance for human disease is primarily the responsibility of CDC.
• Protection is primarily the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
• Research is primarily the responsibility of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
• Oversight is primarily the responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of DHHS.
Press Release: HHS Launches Expanded Plan to Combat "Mad Cow Disease"
On DHHS site

The Public Health Impact of Prion Diseases
Belay E., Schonberger L. Annu. Rev. Public Health 2005;26:191-212
PDF format icon PDF format (198 KB/25 pages)

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies in Humans
Belay E. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 1999;53:283-314
PDF format icon PDF format (208 KB/32 pages)

Reference in this website to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, or company does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government or CDC. CDC is not responsible for the contents of any "off-site" web page referenced from this server.
Date:January 26, 2006
Content source: National Center for Infectious Diseases
Program Contents
bullet Topic Home

Quick Links

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Classic (CJD)

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)
Contact CDC

* Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention
National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333, U.S.A

05-05-2008, 09:37
A fellow named Gajdusek was awarded the Nobel Prize (Physiology of Medicine), for his research on "the trembling disease" he studied (I think natives of New Guinea) where there was an alarming rate of female deaths. The tribe wasted nothing, and when a tribal member died, that individual was eaten by the other members, the females did all the work to include cooking the corpses, and therefore were rewarded with the tastiest parts ie, the brains.

Later, Gajdusek was convicted of child abuse, the conviction took nothing away from his groundbreaking work.

Ambush Master
05-05-2008, 17:22
Can you get this if the goat or pig brain is cooked? I have eaten both while serving, and have always been curious about how stupid this was. FWIW they were both cooked.

As Terry said, it can not be destroyed. I saw a documentary several years ago on PBS and they showed how they attempted to destroy it by burning, massive microwave exposure, and all kinds of radiation exposure. It is not a living thing, it is a form of protein that when it attaches to other necessary proteins in the Brain, it binds them up so that when they attach to others, the resulting mass is lesser than before, hence the "wasting".

This show said that where cattle had been fed "Protein Meal" that was a byproduct of the slaughterhouse industry, this was one of the effects. Not only domestic cattle, but sheep, goats and all manner of fowl!!

Scary stuff!!


Mr. Freeze
05-10-2008, 22:05
As has been mentioned, the infectious particle is EXTREMELY hardy, surviving even on surgical instruments, which of course get autoclaved. It is probably anecdotal, but I've been told you won't find very many patients that get diagnosed pathologically, i.e. by someone looking at a slide, because surgeons don't want to risk getting a specimen and pathologists probably wouldn't let it in the lab anyway. So I think it gets diagnosed based on HOW it presents, like SSG Alford's case, where those sorts of signs just don't happen that quickly in someone so young and healthy. There just aren't that many things that do that, so by exclusion they pick CJD.

All of the SE's are prion diseases, so I think to group them into human and animal is dangerous. It has been a few years since I did any work regarding them, so things may have changed, but last I heard the stance was "We are neither confirming nor denying that humans can get CWD (for instance) from eating infected ungulates". I'm of the mind that if they can get it, we can get it. That may be overly cautious, albeit logical.

In states where CWD is rampant (directly related to human encroachment on habitat, since natural selection doesn't weed out before transmission occurs and animal contact is higher), I believe it is illegal to transport carcasses in which the bones have been compromised, like bone-in cuts. And I believe taking heads and capes for later mounts is a big no-no as well, since the infectious material is present in nervous tissue/CSF. But again, somewhat anecdotal, since I personally haven't been drawn for my Colorado elk hunt.

Now I can't remember what I logged on to look for. Got all excited about prions there for a minute.

Remington Raidr
05-10-2008, 22:42
I guess I'm gonna have to give vegetarianism another look. Of course, there is always E-Coli.:eek:

05-15-2008, 02:05
Something about microbial things like bacteria, pathogens, and viruses have always scared the shit out of me.

Edit: nvm, missed ambushmaster's post first time through. Terrifying to know that something so tiny and invisible can effortlessly take the life of someone who exemplifies what it means to be a man.

05-15-2008, 16:26
Something about microbial things like bacteria, pathogens, and viruses have always scared the shit out of me.

<rimshot> :D