31 December 1998
CJD watchdog under pressure
The national surveillance system set up to monitor the human incidence of mad cow disease has been put under pressure by a huge increase in referrals for possible Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD).
The National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh was set up in 1990. It was designed to cope with 150 referrals a year. But if present trends continue it will have to cope with up to 200 referrals in 1999.
There have been 34 deaths from new variant CJD – human bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – but scientists have not seen a significant increase in cases to indicate an epidemic.
The first indication of an epidemic would be an increase in referrals to the unit. The unit denies the increase is significant at the present time.