CJD on increase as human death toll passes 100

CJD on increase as human death toll passes 100

May 25, 2001 The Daily Telegraph (London) by David Derbyshire

THE death toll for the human form of mad cow disease has reached 100 and shows no signs of slowing down, scientists said yesterday.

The landmark figure was revealed as Government advisers warned that elderly patients with variant CJD - the disease linked to eating BSE-infected beef - could be dying undiagnosed and that the true scale of the epidemic could be far worse.

Yesterday, one of Britain's leading epidemiologists warned that the most optimistic predictions of the spread of vCJD could now be ruled out.

In the first five months of the year there were 16 confirmed or suspected new cases of vCJD. If new cases continue to emerge at the same rate, the 2001 toll will top last year's total of 28 cases.

Prof Peter Smith, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), which advises the Government on BSE, CJD and the related sheep disease scrapie, said: "It is an arbitrary landmark, but obviously every additional case is of great concern. But it has reached 100 and some of the earlier predictions were that it would not reach 100. We don't know how it's going to evolve."

An early model of the disease by Prof Roy Anderson, another member of SEAC and an epidemiologist at Imperial College, London, predicted a range of deaths between 100 and 100,000. Prof Anderson warned that the epidemic was still rising.

"It will be a long time before we have an idea of the scale of this epidemic so that the bottom line remains that the future is still uncertain," he said.

Although most patients with vCJD are in their 20s and 30s, a patient aged 74 died of the disease last year.

SEAC called for more post mortem examinations to be conducted on elderly people who die with suspected dementia, in case vCJD is being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's or senility.

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