9 January 2002
‘CJD from sheep could kill thousands’

By FWi staff

UP to 150,000 people could die from Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease if BSE is discovered in the national sheep flock, scientists have estimated.

The figures, produced by Imperial College in London, are the first attempt to estimate the human health risk from possible BSE infection in sheep.

The study, which is reported in the journal Nature, found the present risk of vCJD from eating sheep could be greater than that from cattle.

This is because tight controls have been introduced to protect human health from exposure to infected cattle, it says.

The overall historic risk from sheep remains much less than for cattle, but analysis suggests between 110 and 150,000 human deaths could result.

Professor Neil Ferguson, who led the research team, said there had been no attempt to evaluate the probability that BSE had entered the sheep flock.

“But rather, given the pessimistic assumption that infection has occurred, to explore its potential extent and pattern of the spread.”

Prof Ferguson was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List after using a computer model to predict the spread of the foot-and-mouth.