MIRAMAR, Florida (AP)--A Florida woman believed to have contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease years ago in England has died--the first such death in the United States, health officials said.
Charlene Singh, 25, died at her father's home in Fort Lauderdale June 20. She was diagnosed two years ago with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of the brain-wasting illness known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
"I felt her hands, they were cold but her body was warm," her father, Patrick Singh, told The Miami Herald for the June 22 editions. "I would not believe it. I put my ear to her chest to hear her heart. I just started to cry."
No deaths related to the disease have been previously reported in the United States, said Llelwyn Grant, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 21.
No Americans are known to have contracted the disease in this country, although one case of disease has been reported in a cow.
Singh's father and his ex-wife, Alison, believe their daughter ate contaminated beef sometime before 1992 in England, where the family formerly lived.
After earning her business management degree at the University of Miami, Charlene Singh noticed the first symptoms of the disease: irritability, forgetfulness and uncharacteristic outbursts of anger.
"She asked me one day, 'What is wrong with me?"' said her aunt Amru Ramsaran. "I didn't know what to say to her because at that time no one was totally sure what it was."
The disease has killed more than 140 people in Great Britain and at least 10 others in other parts of the world. Almost all of the cases originated during an outbreak in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and '90s, the CDC says.