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US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has Parkinson’s disease

Jesse Jackson

American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson announced Friday that he has the degenerative neurological disease Parkinson’s.

The 76-year-old, who once worked with Martin Luther King Jr for the cause of equal rights for African Americans, and currently heads a Chicago non-profit organization, said it has become “increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks.”

“My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor,” Jackson said in a statement.

“After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.”

Jackson said he would make “lifestyle changes,” concentrate on physical therapy to slow disease progression, and planned to work on his memoir.

He also said he would use his diagnosis as an opportunity to educate others about the neurological illness, with a largely unknown cause and no cure, that afflicts seven to 10 million people worldwide.

A number of other notable figures have been afflicted with the disease, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox and Pope John Paul II.



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