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Platelets

Platelets or thrombocytes are cell fragments found in the blood with an average life span of about 5- 9 days. Typically a healthy adult has about 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per micro liter of blood. Platelets are crucial for the clotting process since they are involved in hemostatis. If the platelet count is too high or low, it can be indicative of some disorders. Abnormally high platelet count can lead to myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism or a stroke. Very low platelet count can lead to excessive bleeding. Low platelets can happen due to medications, leukemia, hemolytic anemia or chemotherapy. Abnormally high platelet count can be due to anemia, thrombocythemia or recent spleen removal.

Mad Cow Disease

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, is a degenerative, slowly progressive and fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of adult cattle. An abnormal version of a protein normally found on cell surfaces called a prion is the infectious agent causing the disease. This alters the protein and destroys nervous system tissue, the brain and spinal cord.


Mad cow disease and humans

While humans cannot get mad cow disease, in rare cases they may get a human form of mad cow disease called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease or CJD which is fatal. This is caused by eating beef products contaminated with central nervous system tissue such as brain and spinal cord from cattle infected with mad cow disease. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) believes that any cow products from high risk cattle, older cattle, animals that are unable to walk, and any animal that shows any signs of neurological problem should not enter the US food supply and therefore believes that this practice can effectively safeguard US public health from vCJD.


Symptoms

The disease can affect all age groups. It is hard to diagnose until it has nearly run its course. In the early stages, vCJD has symptoms related to nervous system such as depression, loss of coordination, dementia, illness and brain abnormalities. Tingling, burning, or prickling in the face, hands, feet and legs are other symptoms. Psychotic behavior, inability to walk and finally coma are other signs. If a person eats nerve tissue from an infected cow, he or she may not feel sick right away but usually within thirteen months of the onset of symptoms it can be fatal.


Causes

The leading theory is that vCJD is caused by infectious proteins called prions which are found in infected cows. There is no proof that prions are found in muscle meat such as steak. However, milk and milk products are not believed to pose any risk for causing mad cow disease in humans. When a cow is slaughtered and parts of it are used for human consumption, it affects the people if they eat the brain or spinal cord of infected cattle.

The first case of vCJD was reported in 1996 and since then there has been few cases of vCJD reported in the world. Most cases have been from parts of the United Kingdom. In 2003 mad cow disease was discovered in one cow in the US. In 2004 three more cows in the US have been found with mad cow disease. The most recent was found in April 2012 in a cow in California.


Diagnosis

There is no single test to diagnose vCJD. Doctors base their assumptions upon where the person has lived and the person's symptoms and past health. Imaging tests such as MRI are done to check for brain changes caused by vCJD. As of now no blood test is available although researchers are trying to develop a blood test. A brain biopsy is the only way to confirm diagnosis of vCJD.


Treatment

There is no cure for vCJD. Treatment includes managing the symptoms that occur as the disease gets worse. Researchers at New York University School of Medicine have taken a key step in developing an effective treatment. They found four compounds that significantly delayed the disease onset in mice. As prion diseases are extremely slow to develop, any treatment that can delay initial symptoms for a longer duration can be significantly life saving. Clinical trials of some anti-prion compounds are in progress. While presently little is known about prion diseases, they might probably prove simpler to treat than bacterial infections. Researchers are hopeful that tests of trimipramine and fluphenazine in people with CJD will begin soon.


Striking facts about mad cow disease

Humans cannot get the disease by simply eating regular cow meat. If someone is infected with CJD, they will probably will not know until years later.

Latest case of mad cow disease is attributed to random mutation. The cow did not contract the disease by consuming infected cattle feed since the deceased cow showed little symptoms of the disease when tests were performed randomly on dead cows.

Mad cow destroys the brain and spine in cattle as the disease attacks and destroys the brain and spinal cord in cattle. Thoroughly cooking meat will not help as prions are not affected by heat or other methods used to kill food-borne pathogens. Prions can survive in extremes up to 1800 degrees of heat to be neutralized so much so that even sterilization process used in hospitals is largely ineffective.

The mad cow disease is on the decline and is far less common than it was about a decade ago. There is at least a 99 percent decline worldwide since the disease peaked in 1992 with 37,311 cases.



Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Irritable Bowel disease is a condition that affects nearly 20% of the adult American population. While most of the time, the causes for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are mild, in rare cases, it may be indicative of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. It is noticed that women are more prone to develop IBS than men, leading to the belief that hormonal changes may have a bearing on the condition. IBS involves a functional disorder of the large intestine. It usually has no structural or biochemical causes.


Typical symptoms that affect persons suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are gas (flatulence), bloating and mucus/blood in stool. Constipation or diarrhea is also noticed. The patient suffers from cramps. Other symptoms can range from fever and nausea to weight loss and vomiting of bile. In most cases of irritable bowel syndrome, the symptoms are mild. But in chronic cases of IBS, the symptoms are persistent and can affect the quality of the life of the patient. It is noticed that stress, medications, certain foods or stimuli may trigger the IBS symptoms. Some persons notice worsening of symptoms on consumption of milk, alcohol, chocolates or dairy products. Gastroenteritis can trigger an attack of irritable bowel syndrome.


A gastroenterologist can help you diagnose and treat this condition with dietary changes and medication. Stool studies, functional assessment of the GI tract and colonoscopy can aid in screening for IBS. Colonoscopy involves examination of the colon with a small flexible tube. This helps to rule out ulcerative colitis or colorectal cancer. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as sulfasalazine and antibiotics such as metronidazole can attack the germs in the intestine. Anti-diarrheal medication, laxatives or painkillers can provide relief from symptoms of irritable bowel disease. Dietary changes that are likely to be prescribed include eating at regular times, drinking plenty of water, restricting fatty foods and reducing dairy products. Moderate exercise is also helpful. Gradual increase in fiber content in the diet provides relief for many. Fiber supplements are sometimes prescribed. Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease must be treated differently.

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Bibliography / Reference

Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: November 22, 2019