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My Mother Died from Mad Cow Disease in the US in 1986

I am so hopping mad, I am only able to see red right now….

I just finished watching Elizabeth Cohen on CNN tell how there has never been a case of a human contracting Mad Cow Disease in the United States. Well, Ms. Cohen is wrong. My mother died of the human form of Mad Cow Disease, otherwise known as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (aka CJD), in 1986. The only time she had set foot outside of the United States was for a one-week trip to Austria in the late 1970’s. She was born and raised in Indiana, lived for a short period of time in Arizona, and never anywhere abroad.

Here is the video of Ms. Cohen providing you with false information:


In December 1985, we admitted her to the IU Medical Center in Indianapolis. They were unable to diagnose her ailment. It was recommended to take her to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, so we flew her by helicopter to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

It was there, in either January or February of 1986 that she was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, and she died in March 1986.

I suppose I am just very sick and tired of people like Ms. Cohen trying to cover up the truth. And perhaps the cattle industry has some fear as well since if the truth came out, many people would freak out. I do want to say at this time, though, that CJD is very rare, and very hard to contract. Personally, I still eat beef.

It is on her death certificate. If any legitimate reporter or medical researcher would like to view her death certificate, I have no problem with this. You may click on “Contact Me” in the header menu in this site. After all, this is public information, but I will need to confirm who you are and your reasons first before providing you with her name and where she died.

In a nutshell, don’t believe what they’re telling you (whoever “they” are). Mad Cow Disease has been around for many decades, and people have both contracted it and died from it in the United States. But please don’t become paranoid… it really is very rare.


      • Please forgive me. My statement was left floating there without context or direction – it was not directed at you at all. Call it a bias I have, but I tend to credit the things other people tell me in conversation until they give me reason to do otherwise; which you certainly have not. I would sooner err on the side of doubting the CNN reporter than to doubt you. At the very least, we ‘know’ each other, if somewhat briefly and in conversation, such as it is; I believe you and didn’t mean to cast doubts whatsoever:(

        • LOL… you know, when I read your comment, I saw it could have gone either way. And I did not take it personally against me. I’ve read enough of your blog to know that you don’t believe everything in the news. My retort back was me just being a smart ass and wasn’t meant to be defensive – but I see how you may have thought that.

  1. Sorry for the loss of your mother. Thank you for sharing the information about CJD. I would want to think Ms. Cohen didn’t know the truth, but the folks at CNN should’ve researched their story better.

    • You know, I have sent this basic info to many news people, scientists, etc. and never hear a word back. Probably think I’m a quack. When it’s all so simple… it’s on her death certificate.

      Seriously, though… do you know what a scare like this would do to the beef industry here? You know, the companies with money are the ones in power. Even as rare as it is, people would still freak out.

      • Thanks for your thoughts here Michelle. This scare does hurt larger companies, but there are many, many farmers and ranchers like my family affected by nervous markets. In 2003, when the first cases of BSE were found in the U.S., cattle markets plummeted, celebrities drummed up negative images of cattle producers, and families like mine lost a great deal of income. Hopefully, markets and consumers will realize that our country’s food safety system worked and identified this case before any potential for harm to the food supply could occur.

        • It is also possible that she may have contracted this through a blood transfusion. She did have a full hysterectomy in early-mid 1970’s, before they started screening blood as they do now. This is probably a more solid source than through bad beef. She also was raised as a Mennonite farmer, they consumed anything that was consumable. There are several possibilities. I just do not like hearing that “no one in the US has contracted it here and died from it” when it happened to my mother… in 1986. And since it does lie dormant for decades, she may have contracted it 15, 20, 30 years before she died from it.

          Like I said… I still eat meat. I’m not that concerned about it. If I was, there are other things much more risky to be concerned about. I refuse to live in a cave of fear.

        • Glad to hear you consider there is a broad spectrum of possibilities for contracting something like that. And thank you for not caving to fear. Someone told me the other day, if we believed all of the stories in media today, we’d never be able to do anything. 🙂

        • And I should say that I am sorry for your loss. I too have lost my mother. Mine died from an injury on our ranch when I was 17. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, but we can always gain strength from their memories.

  2. Michelle, you already know you can not believe shit you hear or see on the news in America, I am sorry for the lost of your mother. If I were you, I’d write CNN about her lies.

    • Oh, I’ve been spending the last hour posting comments and just uploaded an iReport on the CNN site. Thing is, they’ll poo-poo this because Mother went for ONE week to Austria. They’ll all say that’s where she got it. Well, let’s see, she lived approximately 3,172 weeks and the one week where she caught the prion was that one specific week in Austria? Odds just are not in that favor.

      Seriously, I’ve tried to tell news this for years. Every time Mad Cow becomes hot again in the news. No, I don’t push it that hard. I really am not out to gain anything… other than wanting people to know the truth. Personally, I want to be left anonymous and definitely leave my family and their name out of the news.

    • Oh, thanks. Shoot… it’s been so long now, I honestly cannot remember her voice. Her face because of photos, but that’s about it. You’re a sweetheart and thanks for caring. I just want the country, the news, the medical whoever to realize and admit that there have been deaths in the US and stop dusting it under the rug.

        • It would be completely stupid. We do have a very good USDA, or whoever, in controlling the beef in our country. Plus, it is so damn rare…. I have no fear of eating the beef here. Now outside the states, yeah. Depends on where.

          It’s an interesting disease. It actually originated in sheep. But ranchers would grind up the dead sheep remains and put it in the cattle feed. Then the prion eventually migrated from sheep to cattle. Then… man.

  3. Is CJD one of diseases that has to be reported to the authorities? Maybe CNN only checks public health records. I dunno, everything they do is more about generating viewer interest (aka “entertainment”) than in reporting legitimate, well researched news.

    • I’m not sure. Mom died in 1986… a lot of laws have changed since then. They may not have known the name to look for and looked for “Mad Cow Disease” or MBE. That’s not what it’s called in humans.

      I remember when the doctor told us what it was. I went to the local college medical school library and did some research on it. Not much was available at that time. Plus, there was no big news scare called “Mad Cow Disease” back then. The doctor told us about it, but said it was primarily in Europe. Then when the first big scare hit the states, I tripped out! That was really a “WTF…”

    • Yes, it’s like her death means nothing. I just have to remind myself the reporters just don’t know about it. But I HATE when people say there’s never been a case contracted here in the US when there most absolutely has. I know the MSM twists the truth a lot, but generally we have no way of confirming facts. But on this one, I have proof positive. Oh well.

  4. Terrible to lose your mother in such circumstances but you are right to highlight how tiny the risks are as that does not diminish your loss.
    168 people ( up to Nov 2011) have died from CJD in the UK though many more could be harbouring it. . The risk is still tiny when you consider that cardiovascular disease is reposnsible for 1 in 3 deaths in the UK – more than 190,000 a year. I’m sure figures are similar in America.
    I lost my father to heart disease when I was 17 and I barely remember him either.. I empathise with you in that Michelle.

    • Thanks, Helen. I am glad you mentioned the CJD in the UK and the numbers. I had not realized that so many are known to have died from it. Although 168 is barely scratching the surface of the entire population, I wouldn’t have thought more than 20 or so have been diagnosed there. And, yes… there are so many other things to fear a lot more than Mad Cow. And my post most certainly was not to stir up paranoia and “don’t eat beef!” because, well… I eat beef. I just want the public to know that these idiots are lying. CJD has been in the US, contracted in the US, and died in the US. Well, I must be off to bed. Way past my bedtime. 😉

  5. A friend of mine recently lost his mother in the last 6 months to CJD in Alabama. Not a word of it on the news or anywhere else. They thought she had a stroke, became unable to speak over time, and cried though she could not explain what was wrong. She eventually became bed riddin and past a few months later. After months of testing, it was finally found CJD was the reason for her condition and eventually her passing.

    • I am so sorry. And that is EXACTLY what happened with my mother. Thought it was a series of mini-strokes… but she kept getting worse. IU Med Center couldn’t figure it out, so off she went to Mayo Clinic to find out it was CJD. See… it’s been around now for a while.

  6. My precious Daddy just passed away in March from this horrible disease. He was a perfectly healthy 77 year old. It was only a couple months after his symptoms began and he was gone to be with the Lord. There was no reason for him to have gotten CJD. He was a hunter in his 30s. He also had an accident when he was younger. He fell off of a ladder and had to have reconstructive surgery on his face and his eye put back in the socket. I have read that corneal transplants may have put people at risk because the sterilization was not adequate to kill the disease before a certain date. I think it was sometime in the 70s. Those are the only things I can think of that may have been a risk. I just don’t understand why they are downplaying this! I have been on several support sites for people who have lost loved ones to the disease. There are plenty of people on there with similar stories to tell. My family has been through the most painful thing we could have ever imagined. We took our Dad to Virginia Mason Hosp. in Seattle in Feb. They kept him for several weeks after doing an MRI. They wanted to continue testing to rule other things out. He was talking and walking when he went in, although he had plenty of disturbing symptoms. By the time we took him home he had to be taken out in a wheelchair and could barely speak. We took him home to take care of him, and he was gone within 3 weeks. Our hearts are completely broken. I’m determined that my Dad’s death and suffering not be in vain. He lived his life to help others and I want his death to do the same. We have to speak out about this!

  7. I just found out today that the lady that draws my blood died in Dec.2012 of mad cow disease.
    In 2010, my friends husband died of CJD, a form of mad cow disease. I think it’s a little more common then they are letting on.

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