Six New Mad Cow/CJD Clusters Suspected In Britain : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

By Tom Robbins and Roger Dodgson The Sunday Times May 13 2001 BRITAIN 5-14-1

Scientists are investigating six new potential clusters of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) victims scattered throughout Britain. At least two people have died from the human form of "mad cow" disease in each of the six areas, and experts are examining links between the cases by studying local butchery practices, medical records and eating habits. So far only one group of cases has been confirmed in the village of Queniborough, Leicestershire, where five young people died. Yesterday it emerged that a third victim of the disease had died in the town of Eastleigh, Hampshire, one of the potential cluster areas. Steve Babey, 25, was diagnosed with vCJD five months ago. A preliminary investigation was started earlier this year into the deaths of two other people in the Eastleigh area. It found no obvious links between the cases, but further investigations are to take place during the coming months. Scientists from the government-funded CJD Surveillance Unit, based in Edinburgh, are working in conjunction with local health authorities in an effort to isolate common factors between cases. The Department of Health refused to identify the areas being examined, but last week local health authorities covering Stockton-on-Tees, Chester-le-Street, in Durham, and Glasgow, in addition to Eastleigh, confirmed that they were assisting in investigations. The unit is believed to be preparing to launch studies in two other unnamed areas. Studies have already been conducted in Stockport and in Armthorpe, South Yorkshire, but have failed to find any links between cases. Victims' families are being interviewed and sent questionnaires that examine where they bought meat, where children went to school and where they had hospital or dental treatment to ascertain if there was exposure to contaminated blood. Research by the CJD Surveillance Unit and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the incidence of vCJD was twice as high in the north of Britain as in the south. Dr Simon Cousens, who led the study, confirmed that potential new clusters were being investigated. "There are other clusters, but they have to be taken into context," he said. "Two cases in a rural area, for example, might be more surprising than 10 in London. The number of cases alone is not indicative." However, experts warn that trying to find links between cases was extremely difficult. In Armthorpe no direct links were found, even though the two victims of the disease were friends who lived in the same street. Sarah Roberts, 28, who died last September was friends with Matthew Parker, 19, who died in 1997. Last week Doncaster Health Authority said investigations had been hampered because many small abattoirs from the 1980s had closed. In Stockport Paul Dickens, 28, and Stephen Lunt, 34, who lived only two streets apart, both died of the disease but again no link has been found. There have been 99 cases in total of "definite and probable" vCJD in Britain.

-- Ron Trapnell (, May 15, 2001

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