Rising Death Toll From Human BSE
By James Meikle,3604,364613,00.html
Nineteen people have died from the human form of BSE in Britain this year, already making it the worst year since the outbreak started in May 1995.
Four victims died last month, and another eight are suspected of having the incurable disease, formally known as vCJD. The death toll now stands at 74.
The increase apparently confirms a rapid acceleration in the disease which experts believe has been growing at 20-30% each year, although its spread has been disguised by the time from victims first showing symptoms to their deaths varying from seven months to more than three years.
It is not known how long the victims were incubating the disease before symptoms were noted, although most were presumed to have been infected by cheap cuts from cattle before parts of the animals thought most risky to human health were banned from food in late 1989.
However, the BSE inquiry due to report next month is expected to criticise both government officials and ministers for not taking the threat seriously enough and ensuring that measures were not flouted in the years before the probable link between early deaths and cheap meat was established in March 1996.
Scientific advisers will this month consider whether extra controls to protect food and prevent accidental transmission of the condition through surgical operations are needed. Research published last month indicated that both BSE and vCJD may be highly infectious even when unknowing carriers of the disease display no outward signs.
Three people died from vCJD in 1995, 10 in both 1996 and 1997, 18 in 1998 and 14 in 1999.
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