- LONDON (Reuters) - British
government scientists said the incidence of the deadly human form of mad
cow disease in Britain was increasing by a "statistically significant"
20 to 30 percent a year. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
(SEAC), set up by the government to monitor the brain-wasting disease,
said however that it was too early to assess the long-term trend on variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
- "There are now 76 definite and probable cases, including
seven probables still alive," the committee said in a statement late
- "The number of cases reported now indicated a statistically
significant rising trend of about 20 percent to 30 percent per annum."
- Last month the government launched an urgent inquiry
into a cluster of CJD deaths around the small village of Queniborough in
the central English county of Leicestershire.
- Three of the four victims died within weeks of each other
and all lived within a close radius. Two of those who died were teenagers.
- Dr Robert Will, head of the government's CJD surveillance
unit, said at the weekend that baby food and school meals may have been
a major source for the Queniborough outbreak.
- He said these foods in the 1980s contained mechanically
extracted beef -- leftovers from the carcass which were removed with high-powered
water jets and then ground up and used in cheap food products.
- Many scientists believe humans contract the disease by
eating meat from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), or mad cow disease.
- The Health Department has ordered tests of more than
10,000 tonsils and appendixes removed since 1985 to find out how many people
in Leicestershire have contracted the disease.
- A Department spokeswoman said last Friday an investigation
would probably take months but could provide vital information on the disease.
- Outbreaks of BSE all but crippled Britain's beef industry
in the late 1990s and provoked a bitter political row within Europe over
whose beef was safe to eat.
- SEAC said the team investigating the Leicestershire deaths
was likely to report within the next few months and could well cast new
light on the transmission of the disease.
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