New patient with suspected vCJD 'is girl of 14'

New patient with suspected vCJD 'is girl of 14'

June 21, 2001 Press Association by Wayne Veysey

Doctors are monitoring the condition of another person suspected of having the human form of mad cow disease amid fears the case could mark a new milestone for the condition.

The Department of Health said it "was aware" of another case this month, which would bring the number of people identified as having variant CJD to 102.

But a spokesman was unable to confirm a report in today's Guardian that the victim is a girl aged 14.

If the case is confirmed, the girl may be the first victim of the human version of the cattle brain disease BSE born after the condition was officially recognised in cows.

All those so far confirmed as having vCJD were born before November 1986, when pathologists first identified BSE.

Frances Hall of Chester-le-Street, Co Durham, secretary of the Human BSE Foundation, which supports families who have lost loved ones to vCJD, said today's news was "extremely worrying".

She told PA News: "I'm not surprised. There was obviously a lot of infected material going into the food chain after they realised it was a problem.

"They were still writing regulations up until a few years ago as there was still infectivity going on.

"Because of when this child was born it must have a significance. The reassurances they uttered are starting to ring a bit false."

Asked if she expected to hear of more similar cases, Mrs Hall said: "I'm sure there will be. Unfortunately I think the number of cases seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

"I hope I'm wrong but common sense dictates I'm not."

Mrs Hall, whose son Peter died from vCJD in 1996, said the scars had still not healed.

"I've been seriously angry for the last six years, I can speak for most of the families.

"This was a man-made disease and a preventable disease. You can't help feeling angry."

Mrs Hall said she had not heard about the latest case of vCJD until today.

The death toll from vCJD, though relatively low still, has been growing rapidly in Britain. The first victim died in May 1995.

On June 4, when the last official figures were issued by the Department of Health, the number of definite and probable cases stood at 101. A total of seven people were still alive.

Last year the total number of confirmed and probable cases was 28. So far this year the tally is 18, including the 102nd victim.

A Department of Health spokesman said today: "We are aware of another case this month. It's likely the next figures published in the first week of July will include that case.

"In the last list of cases seven were still alive. In the next set of figures there will be eight still alive."

But he added: "We don't comment on individual cases."

The spokesman said the youngest person so far identified as having vCJD was 12 - born before BSE was officially recognised in cattle - and the oldest aged 74.

Today's news comes days after it emerged that a new discovery could make it far easier to detect vCJD.

At present, it can only be diagnosed by examining brain tissue either after death or from a surgically removed sample.

The breakthrough by Swiss researchers could make it possible to recognise the disease from a blood sample.

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