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Woman dies from mad cow disease in Spain

  • Story Highlights
  • Spain's Ministry of Health reports fifth death from mad cow disease
  • Woman's death in January is Spain's fifth case since 2005
  • Ministry says there's no danger from eating meat in Spain
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By Al Goodman
Madrid Bureau Chief
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spaniard has died from the human form of mad cow disease, the fifth such death in Spain since 2005, the Ministry of Health said in a statement late Friday.

The victim died in January in the northern city of Santander, according to the statement, which did not provide further details.

The victim was a woman who was hospitalized last fall, according to Juan Jose Badiola, director of Spain's national research center for mad cow disease.

The ministry reiterated that there is no danger from eating meat in Spain.

"The appearance of these sporadic cases is within the predictions that were made at the European level more than nine years ago," the ministry statement said.

Ten years can pass between eating contaminated tissue and the appearance of the human form of the disease also called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, health officials say.

The steps to avoid the disease, taken after the first cases of mad cow disease appeared in the United Kingdom, include isolating infected animals and prohibiting cattle feed of animal origin or with animal proteins, the ministry said.

Three of Spain's five deaths from the disease were in the northern province of Leon. The city of Santander is in the nearby Cantabria province.

Last September, officials reported the death of a woman from the human form of mad cow disease. Officials also said her son had died earlier from the same disease.

It was believed to have been the first case in the world where two members of the same family have died from the disease, Badiola told CNN at the time.

The mother, in her early 60s, died in August 2008. Her son, 41, died in February 2008, Badiola said.

Badiola said it was the mother and son likely contracted the disease before stricter controls against mad cow disease began in Spain in 2001.

The mother and son had similar eating habits, Badiola said, which included eating animal organs, such as kidneys and livers, and they may also have eaten animal brains.

The mother and son were from a village in Leon province. The third fatality in that province was a woman, 50, a local government worker, who died in December 2007.

The first confirmed death from mad cow disease in Spain was in 2005, when a young woman died near Madrid.

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