17 July 2000
CJD outbreak down to one cow?

By FWi staff

JUST one cow could be the cause of a cluster of cases of the human form of BSE in a Leicestershire village, claims a leading vet.

Three victims of new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) who died in 1998 either lived in Queniborough or visited there regularly, it emerged this month.

A fourth person from the county died from CJD this May, while a fifth has been referred to the Edinburgh-based CJD unit as a “highly probable” case.

Roger Eddy, president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said they all could have eaten meat from one BSE-infected animal as long as 20 years ago.

“It could be one animal with BSE got into the local food chain and some products from that carcass were distributed locally, Mr Eddy told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

“Its quite likely that local schools, local people and local shops may have used material that came out of one local abattoir which unfortunately killed one cow which had BSE.”

Mr Eddy dismissed suggestions that nvCJD could be transmitted through environmental contamination from feed mills where meat and bonemeal is ground up.

“If that were the case wed by now have had cases in abattoir workers and particularly in feed-mill workers. This just hasnt happened,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robert Will, director of the governments CJD Surveillance Unit, has linked a high occurrence of nvCJD among young people with mechanically recovered meat.

Until this process was banned in 1989, recovered meat, including high-risk spinal tissue, could find its way into processed baby food and school meals.

But Leicestershire consultant on communicable diseases, Philip Monk, told the The Times this was not a factor in the Queniborough cluster.

And The Health department insisted there was nothing new in Prof Wills theory.

However, The Independent reports that families of nvCJD victims want an investigation into the claims.

The same newspaper reports that European and US scientists will hold talks over the apparent discovery of a BSE-type disease in sheep.

The US Agriculture department ordered that three flocks in Vermont imported from Belgium and Holland should be destroyed.

It has also started tests to see if the disease has spread to cattle.