The pattern in illness of vCJD differs from that of sporadic CJD (sCJD) (see table 1). Whereas the first symptoms of vCJD often last months and are psychiatric, sporadic CJD characteristically progresses more rapidly into dementia with obvious neurological signs.2

Because of initial psychiatric symptoms, a vCJD patient may be referred first to a psychiatrist and the correct diagnosis obscured.2 Typically, after many weeks or several months, more clear-cut neurological symptoms may set in, including: unsteadiness in walking and sudden jerky movements; loss of mental function such as memory loss; and persistent pain and odd sensations in the face and limbs.2

To date, the disease has occurred predominately in people under the age of 55, a number of whom were teenagers.2 Death occurs approximately 14 months (6 months to 3.5 years, rarely longer) after the onset of symptoms.10

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