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How a young, fit man in the prime of his life became the latest statistic:
Father attacks 'culture of greed' as his son is named victim no 105 of variant CJD

January 27, 2002 The Observer by Paul Harris
THE human form of BSE has claimed its 105th victim, a 26-year-old fitness enthusiast, it was revealed yesterday.

Christopher Hargreaves had been diagnosed with the untreatable Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease just three months before his death. He died peacefully at his home in Bradford on 13 January.

His father Derrick Hargreaves, 52, spoke of his anger at his son's death. 'It is a completely preventable disease and there is no reason why anyone should die from it,' he said. Before Christopher contracted the illness - which scientists believe has been caused by poor livestock feeding practices - he had led a healthy and active life and practised bodybuilding as a hobby. Friends and relatives say he ate a healthy diet.

Hargreaves said that the Government and food industry should be more open about food safety standards, but admitted that it would be difficult to prove that his son had contracted CJD by eating contaminated beef.

'I'd like them to treat food in this country as food, rather than an industry,' he said. 'Everything always comes down to how much profit they can make - let's make money before we know it's safe - and that's wrong.'

The exact method by which CJD has crossed over to humans is still the source of intense investigation. Most experts believe it comes from contaminated meat, but late last year it emerged that two youngsters who contracted CJD had been given the same polio vaccination derived from calf foetuses. The Government later said it believed the vaccines were safe.

Scientists are also investigating several 'clusters' of the disease. The two youngsters are part of a cluster of five in the Southampton area, while five more were diagnosed in one Leicestershire village.

Deaths from the disease, which has an incubation period that can last for many years, have risen 30 per cent over the last year. Some experts have warned that there may be up to 500,000 victims, while others have suggested the final figure will be in the hundreds. The age range of victims has been from 15 years old to 74.

The first symptoms of Christopher's disease appeared 15 months ago when he complained to his family of feeling listless and depressed. Then he began to have difficult walking and started to show physical symptoms of the disease. In August he was forced to leave his job as a printed circuit board designer.

Christopher was taken to see a specialist in September, who diagnosed CJD a month later, after all other possible causes had been ruled out. Initially, Christopher was not told of his condition.

'We knew we were going to have to deal with losing him,' Hargreaves said. 'We did a lot of research on the internet and we were prepared for it, but we didn't tell Chris at that stage.

'He knew it was something serious because he had gone from being a very fit young man to someone who was very ill.'

As the disease took hold, Christopher began to lose the power of speech and had to use a wheelchair to move around. His friends rallied around him, taking him out for drinks when his condition meant he could no longer go out on his own.

A nurse was eventually sent to Bradford from the national CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh to help care for him. Christopher's sister Nancy,28, who lived in Germany with her husband and two-year-old daughter, decided to move back home to be close to the family. But after New Year's Eve it became clear Christopher only had a few weeks to live.

A collection for the Human BSE Foundation and the CJD Support Network was held at Christopher's cremation.


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