Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Symptoms, Causes and More

Creutzfeldt-Jakob (KROITS-felt YAH-kobe) disease is a degenerative brain disorder that leads to dementia and, ultimately, death.

Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) can resemble those of other dementia-like brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. But Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease usually progresses much more rapidly. CJD captured public attention in the 1990s when some people in the United Kingdom developed a form of the disease — variant CJD (vCJD) — after eating meat from diseased cattle. However, “classic” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease hasn’t been linked to contaminated beef. Although serious, CJD is rare, and vCJD is the least common form. Worldwide, there is an estimated one case of CJD diagnosed per million people each year, most often in older adults. The risk of contracting vCJD in the United States remains extremely low. Only three cases have been reported in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strong evidence suggests that these cases were acquired abroad — two in the United Kingdom and one in Saudi Arabia. In the United Kingdom, where the majority of vCJD cases have occurred, fewer than 200 cases have been reported. CJD incidence peaked between 1999 and 2000 and has been declining since. A very small number of other vCJD cases have been reported in other countries worldwide.