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UK Government Ministers Prepare Public for
More Bad News on Human Mad Cow Epidemic

Wire Service: PA (PA News)
Date: Mon, Apr 3, 2000

By Andrew Evans, Lords Staff, PA News
It may be "at least a year or two" before scientists can predict whether
the variant of Creutzfeld Jakob Disease, the human equivalent of BSE, will
become widespread in the UK population, a health minister said tonight.
There have been 67 confirmed or probable deaths in the past five years,
nearly half of them occurring in people in their 20s. But it is not known
how long the incubation period is.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said statistical modellers were analysing
current trends.
"But it may be at least a year or two yet before we are in a position to
rule out a significant number of people eventually succumbing to the
Replying to a Lords debate, he said the first results of separate tests
on some 18,000 tonsil and appendix samples, to test for the prevalence of
CJD in Scotland and South West England, would be available later this
Results from the first 2,000 samples would be reported to a meeting of
medical and scientific experts, under the auspices of the Medical Research
Council and the Health Department. "An announcement about the findings will
be made shortly thereafter."
The minister added: "The Government will shortly be publishing some new
guidance, which is expressly intended for those health care professionals
caring for CJD victims, and it will mention the importance of having a
named key worker in place as soon as possible."
Tory former agriculture spokesman Lord Lucas, opening the debate, had
warned: "We may be looking at a disease which will eventually kill hundreds
of thousands or maybe even millions of us."
Lord Lucas, who had served in the department at the time the BSE crisis
was at its height, accused the Government of complacency, over-optimism and
evasiveness on the issue.
"When I look at what this Government is doing," he said, "I recognise
the same symptoms of what we did in the run-up to the BSE crisis. I see the
same optimism and the same secrecy."
Lord Hunt denied complacency and justified such secrecy as there was on
the grounds of patient confidentiality and to avoid unnecessary panic.

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