Document Directory

24 Mar 01 - CJD - Irish beef shows a higher BSE rate says UK report
24 Mar 01 - CJD - EU leaders lunch on Swedish beef
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Experts decry alarm over beef
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow measures Checked
24 Mar 01 - CJD - 200,000 people may be infected by CJD
24 Mar 01 - CJD - No Sign of Mad Cow Disease in 28 Cattle Under Watch
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Cannibalism's clues to CJD
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Two cows being checked for Mad Cow disease, ag. department says
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow disease feared as U.S. seizes 234 sheep
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Japan bans EU imports over foot-and-mouth fears
24 Mar 01 - CJD - U.S. Agriculture Dept confiscates sheep from Europe on fears of BSE
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Agents seize second Vermont sheep herd
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow Disease Risk Small for Travelers
24 Mar 01 - CJD - No Sign of Mad Cow Disease in 28 Cattle Under Watch
24 Mar 01 - CJD - Foot-and-mouth costing millions in lost trade
24 Mar 01 - CJD - U.S. Seizes Second Sheep Flock on Mad Cow Concerns
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Village's CJD Death Sentence
22 Mar 01 - CJD - "Mad Cow" disease may hit thousands of Britons
22 Mar 01 - CJD - 'vCJD may take 30 years to show'
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Secret of CJD stays locked away
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Cruellest cut
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow fears in United States
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Human ``Mad Cow'' Incubation Period Could Be 30 Years
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Kangaroo and ostrich tempts disease-ridden Europe
22 Mar 01 - CJD - Banned spinal cord found in imported beef



24 Mar 01 - CJD - Irish beef shows a higher BSE rate says UK report

Staff Reporter

Irish Independent--Saturday 24 March 2001


Irish beef is as likely to be infected with BSE as British beef according to a controversial report published yesterday by the British Food Standards Agency.

The study reveals that a total of 159 animals estimated to have been within 12 months of developing clinical symptoms of BSE entered the food chain in the Republic of Ireland in 2000, compared to just 52 in Britain.

The difference relates to the application of the over-thirty-month-rule in the UK, that prevents older animals, which are more likely to be close to developing BSE, from entering the food chain. These rules did not apply in 2000 in France and the Republic of Ireland. Similar controls are now in force across the EU.

The report is set to provoke an angry response from the Irish farming industry still reeling from the discovery of foot-and-mouth disease in Co Louth.

And Irish farmers will find its conclusions difficult to accept because of the massive difference in the rate of infection between Britain and Ireland.

The agency estimates 22,000 Irish cattle were infected between 1985 and 1996, compared to one million in the UK. The report says: "The Agency advises UK consumers that Irish beef consumed in the UK presents a similar risk to UK-produced beef.

"Taking into account the UK over-thirty-month-rule and estimates of its enforcement in relation to imported beef, it is estimated that two animals from the Republic close to clinical infection may have been consumed in the UK in 2000 compared to one from UK herds.

"Meat products imported from the Republic would have presented a slightly higher risk as the over-thirty-month-rule did not apply during 2000."


24 Mar 01 - CJD - EU leaders lunch on Swedish beef

Reuers

YAHOO--Saturday 24 March 2001


STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - European Union leaders were tucking into Swedish beef for lunch, despite the Mad Cow and foot-and-mouth disease scares rampaging across Europe.

"Yes, we are going to serve beef for the delegates. It is Swedish beef and it is very good," summit chef Daniel Isberg told Reuters.

Sweden's safety and animal welfare standards are among the strictest in Europe and have so far protected Sweden from both Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease.

Mad Cow disease, whose brain-wasting human variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease can be fatal, has led to a sharp fall in beef sales in Europe.

Now foot-and-mouth disease, threatening pig and sheep as well as cattle, has spread from Britain to France, Ireland and the Netherlands, causing tens of thousands of animals to be slaughtered and causing many people to stop eating meat altogether.

Summit host Sweden served up fish at a dinner for the leaders on Saturday.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Experts decry alarm over beef

By Barry Shlachter

Star Telegram--Saturday 24 March 2001


It's still safe to chow down on that fast-food cheeseburger, authorities insist.

The Texas Animal Health Commission said reports of German-imported cattle being quarantined here in connection with Europe's Mad Cow disease crisis have caused undue alarm.

The risk, says Dr. Max Coats, deputy director of the commission's animal health programs, is "absolutely minimal."

Although none shows signs of Mad Cow disease, 21 German cattle have been under observation "for up to four years" on five ranches "scattered around Texas" because the animals may have eaten contaminated feed before being imported in 1996 and 1997, he said.

In addition, eight German- imported cattle were traced to Colorado and one to California. All were destroyed, with tests proving negative for the disease, formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, the commission reported. In addition, four cattle from Britain are under quarantine in Vermont, and two from Belgium are quarantined in Minnesota.

Earlier, four of a total of 29 German cattle identified in Texas were killed, but tests proved negative, the report says. Three others have died of causes unrelated to BSE.

There is no evidence that any of the cattle, believed to include such breeds as Simmental and Braunvieh, consumed any of the banned British-made feed, which contained rendered protein from sheep or cattle parts, in the mid-1990s. Some of the feed was known to have been distributed on the continent.

The locations of the ranches were not disclosed to protect the owners' privacy, Coats said from Austin.

"There's been a lot of overreaction, and we do not wish to adversely impact someone where there is no justification," the animal health official said. If the cattle had been high-risk, Coats said, there "would have been a full-court press and they would have been destroyed immediately."

Because the danger was considered extremely low, Coats said, authorities have held off killing the remaining 21 until their owners are willing to part with them. The National Cattlemen's Association has led a campaign to augment the $2,000 federal payments per head owners would receive. Coats said the imported cattle were appraised at about $5,000 per head.

Once the animals are destroyed, brain samples would be sent to a national laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for BSE testing and the carcasses would be incinerated.

Coats said there has been public confusion over the differences between foot-and- mouth disease and BSE, both of which have caused problems in Europe, particularly in Britain. BSE has never been detected in the United States and there has been no foot-and- mouth outbreak here since 1929.

Foot-and-mouth, which humans can only rarely contract, can spread quickly between animals, causing far-reaching economic consequences. The virus can also be carried in the air for miles, in human nostrils and in mud on footwear. While infected cattle, sheep, goats and swine can recover, many are left debilitated. It can be economically devastating to the livestock owner because the virus hurts meat and milk production in a matter of weeks.

By contrast, Mad Cow cannot be spread from one live animal to another. Many scientists say it has been caused by feeding cattle protein rendered from the carcasses of sheep and cattle infected with similar diseases. And it can take two to eight years before symptoms of the brain-wasting ailment surface. Specialists believe that humans can contract a form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, a neurologically degenerative illness, by eating certain cuts of BSE-infected beef. There have been fewer than 90 human cases in Britain.

A Texas Animal Health Commission statement said that calves born to the German cattle have been freely marketed because affected bulls and cows cannot spread BSE to offspring.

Despite the report and the disease outbreaks in Europe, livestock economist Ernie Davis of Texas A&M University expects American consumer confidence in beef to remain strong because animal health authorities moved competently to ensure food safety.

But whether the cumulative effect of all the bad news out of Europe might put Americans off their burgers remains to be seen.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow measures Checked

CBS

CBC--Saturday 24 March 2001


(CBS) Hundreds of feed mills are still breaking rules meant to control the spread of Mad Cow disease, although compliance has improved since the government began re-inspecting some plants in January, federal officials said Friday.

Growing pressure from the meatpacking and fast-food industries should help force feed companies into compliance, said George Mitchell, a senior official with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

"It won't hurt. It's going to elevate awareness" of the regulations, Mitchell said.

The Latest Scare

Still reeling from the Mad Cow crisis, Europe is now working feverishly to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, which rarely affects humans but can weaken and kill animals and wreak havoc on farm economies. Click here for the latest.

McDonald's Corp. has given its meat suppliers until April 1 to certify that the cattle they buy were fed in accordance to FDA regulations. Now, meatpackers, cattle producers and feed mills are all developing certification programs designed to show they are compliance with the rules.

The FDA outlawed the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats in 1997 and imposed a series of rules to ensure that feed mills comply with the ban.

The feed regulations are designed to keep the brain-wasting disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - otherwise known as Mad Cow - from spreading if it ever reaches this country. The disease has devastated the beef industry in Europe but has not been found in the United States.

Thirteen percent of 397 feed mills that are licensed by FDA and also process meat and bone meal have no system for preventing those products from being mixed with other ingredients, the agency said Friday. Fifteen percent were not using required warning labels, the agency reported. Mills must be licensed by FDA if they add medications to feed.

There are another 1,829 unlicensed feed mills that handle meat and bone meal, and a third of them did not comply with the labeling requirement. Eighteen percent did not have systems to prevent mix-ups in feed ingredients, the agency said.

The FDA found higher compliance rates among animal rendering plants, which supply meat and bone meal to feed mills. Of 177 renderers that handle meat and bone meal, 96 percent labeled the products correctly, 86 percent had a system for keeping the prohibited meal out of feed mixes and 97 percent kept their records correctly.

The numbers were based on inspections that have taken place since 1998, involving state and federal inspectors conducting 10,240 visits to 10,065 sites.

Since January, the agency has re-inspected about 157 feed mills and rendering plants and one, a rendering facility, was still out of compliance, Mitchell said.

The feed industry has developed a voluntary certification program for mills that want to document for customers they are adhering to the FDA rules. Inspections of participating mills are expected to start next week, said David Bossman, president of the American Feed Industry Association.

"If all of the meat buyers demand certification, nearly all of the feed mills will have certification," Bossman said at a conference sponsored by the meatpacking industry.

The industry group also has adopted new voluntary safeguards for feed makers that include removing all cattle and sheep products from plants that make cattle feed.

That move was intended to prevent a repeat of an incident in January when 1,200 Texas cattle were quarantined after they ate animal feed containing the banned ingredients. The feed maker, Purina Mills, said it may have mistakenly mixed meat bone meal into a cow feed supplement.

Also Friday, the Agriculture Department said there have been no signs of Mad Cow disease in 27 cattle that were brought into the country from Europe in the 1980s and 1990s before bans on their import. There are 21 of the cattle still alive in Texas, four in Vermont, two in Minnesota and one in Illinois.

The cattle are under quarantine and they are tested as each dies.

"All the tests have come back negative and no symptoms are showing," said Anna Cherry, a spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - 200,000 people may be infected by CJD

David Torrance

Edinburgh News--Saturday 24 March 2001


Up to 200,000 people could be carrying the human form of Mad Cow disease, a leading scientist warned today.

Professor John Collinge, a member of a committee which advises the Government on BSE, said the incubation period for its human form could be as long as 30 years.

He said a report into the deaths of five people in one area from Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (CJD) had "sent a chill down his spine" because it showed they probably contracted the disease before 1985.

This could mean tens of thousands of human cases or possibly even 100,000 to 200,000 were destined to emerge.

The report into a cluster of cases in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough found that traditional techniques at small abattoirs linked to a handful of local butchers were the most likely cause of the cluster.

Crisis

The findings suggested that similar traditional practices were used by up to ten per cent of local retail butchers around the country - raising the possibility of further outbreaks of the disease in future.

Since BSE was first recognised in 1986, nearly 180,000 cases of the disease have been confirmed in animals on more than 35,000 farms in the UK.

It was announced in March 1996 that BSE was the probable cause of new variant CJD (vCJD) and the subsequent crisis in UK agriculture has cost 4 billion to date.

It is thought it can be contracted by eating meat contaminated with BSE, but the link has not been categorically proved. And according to the latest figures, 95 people have died from vCJD and suspected vCJD.

But today Prof Collinge warned: "For me, the main finding from this report is that the significant exposure appears to pre-date 1985.

"That sent a little chill down my spine, certainly. It fits with our estimates that we have been making of the likely incubation periods of BSE in humans.

"The cases we are seeing at the moment are by definition those with the shortest incubation periods and the average incubation period could well be in the region of 30 years."

Prof Collinge added that the 30-year incubation period had implications for the likely toll of the disease on the human population.

He said: "Unfortunately, what follows from that, since the exposure of the population after 1985 was very much larger than that preceded it, is that many more cases must be in the pipeline.

"But hundreds of thousands of human cases is very unlikely.

"The upper limits of the modelling at the moment are in the region of one to two hundred thousand - that is one extreme of the possibilities - but we may see thousands, or tens of thousands."

The inquiry team, from Leicestershire Health Authority, believed the infection that caused the Queniborough outbreak could have been spread from high-risk brain tissue to cuts intended for human consumption via butchers' hands or knives.

They said the critical period occurred between 1980 and 1991, and believe only small amounts of contaminated material are enough to put humans at risk.

The inquiry found that although all the Queniborough victims did not use the same butcher, they all ate beef or beef products.

The experts said out-dated techniques used by some small abattoirs and butchers probably spread the disease from cows to humans.

Contaminated

But the experts ruled out any other common connection between the five victims of vCJD.

There was no evidence that the five victims had undergone similar types of surgery, had similar vaccinations or shared the same dentist.

Neither was there any link between their jobs. A theory that the water supply was contaminated was also ruled out.

The Queniborough cluster was first reported in 1998 after three people died within 12 weeks, with the most recent victim, a male farm worker, having died in September.

Prof Anderson, who advised the Leicestershire Health Authority, said the report had come to "a very plausible explanation".

But Professor Richard Lacey, of Leeds University, a microbiologist who first suggested the link between BSE and vCJD, said nobody knew for certain how vCJD was transmitted.

He said the Leicestershire report was "pure speculation".

But Clive Evers, from the CJD Support Network, said: "This inquiry is important because it has explained in some detail what went on at that time and families want explanations and want to know why this happened to their relative."


24 Mar 01 - CJD - No Sign of Mad Cow Disease in 28 Cattle Under Watch

By Charles Abbott

Iwon News--Saturday 24 March 2001


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday that 28 cattle imported from Europe, before a U.S. ban on such animals took effect, have shown no sign of Mad Cow disease during years of surveillance.

The animals belong to owners in Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and Illinois, and are examined several times a year by veterinarians for any sign of the brain-destroying disease.

No cases of Mad Cow disease, formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), have been found in the United States in a decade of monitoring native and imported cattle.

The cattle under surveillance were the last of slightly more than 500 head, predominantly from Ireland and Britain, brought to the United States before a ban on imports took effect. The others died of natural causes or were purchased by the government and destroyed.

"No evidence of BSE has been found in any of these imported animals," said the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Cattle under surveillance included four in Vermont, imported from Britain; two in Minnesota, which came from Belgium; one in Illinois, which originated in Germany; and 21 in Texas, which were imported from Germany.

"We are continuing to negotiate...to purchase these for diagnostic purposes," said Lisa Ferguson, a senior APHIS veterinarian. "They are under quarantine. They are under continuous surveillance."

U.S. officials monitor the animals because they were in Europe at a time when BSE was believed to have spread through cattle feed containing meat and bone meal made from infected animals.

Humans can contract a fatal version of the disease by eating meat products contaminated with diseased spinal cords and other nerve tissue.

As part of a program to keep BSE out of the United States, officials tracked cattle imported from Britain and Ireland from January 1981 until July 1989, when a ban on imports took effect. It was expanded to cover all of Europe in December 1997.

"These are some of the oldest, happiest cows, I think, in the United States," Ferguson said, referring to the four head in Vermont.

APHIS spokeswoman Anna Cherry said owners of the cattle under surveillance in the four states had declined offers to sell their animals. When each animal dies, as one did recently in Texas, it must be turned over to USDA for tissue sampling and tests.

"Nothing has ever indicated that any of the animals have any illness that we would be concerned about," Cherry said. "We know where they are, we know where they've been, and we know where they are going."

Officials said the imported animals would not enter the animal or human food chain when they die.

Speaking at a meat industry conference, Feguson said tests of tissue from more than 12,000 cattle since 1990 found no evidence of BSE in U.S. cattle. The samples were taken from animals suspected of nervous system disorders or unable to stand.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Cannibalism's clues to CJD

Staff Reporter

BBC--Saturday 24 March 2001


Nobody knows how many will be killed by the human form of Mad Cow disease. But a similar disorder among cannibals in Papua New Guinea gives some important clues.

Ever since a link was established between Mad Cow disease and its human form, variant CJD, a time bomb has been ticking.

Because the fatal vCJD takes years to emerge in humans, the number of new cases is rising all the time.

But experts are stumped when it comes to estimating the total number of deaths. Suggestions have ranged from millions to a few hundred.

The problem is that so much about the human form of Mad Cow disease continues to mystify experts.

Yet the case of a similar disease among a tribe of cannibals from Papua New Guinea is proving an unlikely source of enlightenment to scientists.

Like vCJD, kuru is a fatal spongy-brain disease, known to doctors as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

(Likely death toll from vCJD: Report in 2000 estimated between 14,000 and 500,000, Source: Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease)

The condition was first noticed by western scientists in the 1950s among members of the Fore tribe, based in the jungle highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Symptoms start with pains in the joints and headaches, and progress to loss of co-ordination, tremor, uncontrollable laughing and dementia.

Victims are said to become progressively paralysed, with frozen, masklike smiles on their faces. The disease progresses steadily and death occurs within two years.

By the time kuru, which means "trembling" or "shivering", was discovered by outsiders, it was killing half of all women and children in the Fore tribe.

Initially, scientists thought the illness was hereditary since it carried none of the classic symptoms of infection - fever, inflammation, changes in white blood cells and antibody response.

Additionally, while most bacterial or viral diseases produce illness within days or months, kuru seemed to take years to develop.

But the American physician Dr Carleton Gajdusek had a hunch the disease might somehow be related to the tribe's eating habits. Fore men supplemented their bean-and-sweet-potato diets with small game, but women and children lacked protein.

To make up for this, the women had recently started a ritual of eating the brains of tribal members who had recently died.

Sponge-like holes

Autopsies revealed the brains of those who died from kuru contained small cavities like the holes in a sponge. To Dr Gajdusek it looked like the effects of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the disease which is related to vCJD but which strikes randomly and infrequently all over the world.

He experimented by injecting the crushed-up brains of kuru victims into chimpanzees. After two years the apes showed signs of kuru.

Dr Gajdusek deduced that the illness was caused by an infectious agent called a prion. His work earned him the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1976.

The findings have helped scientists working in the field of vCJD determine incubation periods, says Professor John Collinge who sits on a panel of experts which advises the government on CJD.

"The [CJD] cases we are seeing at the moment are, by definition, those with the shortest incubation period," says Mr Collinge.

"The average incubation period in kuru is thought to be around 12 years. There the transmission is from human to human. But where these diseases jump from one species to another we know that they are associated with much larger incubation periods."

But even though the Fore tribe called a halt to cannibalism in 1957 the death toll, which currently stands at more than 2,500, has not stopped altogether. Elderly members are still dying of kuru.

This has led doctors to suggest that the average incubation period for the human form of Mad Cow disease could be a lot longer than originally thought. Mr Collinge says it could be 30 years.

Gene variations

Crucially, it seems that the length of incubation may be due to individuals' gene makeup.

People are divided into three "geotypes" called M-M, V-V and M-V which occur respectively in 37%, 12% and 51% of the population.

Since everybody who has so far developed vCJD belonged to the M-M combination, it was initially thought that others may have a genetic immunity to the disease.

But, according to Professor Collinge, the 11 newest cases of kuru, have affected those with the M-V geotype. His fear is that vCJD may run a similar course - showing initially in one geotype and developing later in another.

It means the British people must live with the threat for many years of being struck down by a disease that could kill almost one in a hundred of us .


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Two cows being checked for Mad Cow disease, ag. department says

Associated Press

Daily Gate City--Saturday 24 March 2001


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Federal officials are monitoring two cows in Minnesota for signs of Mad Cow disease, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture expert on the illness.

Linda Detwiler, the U.S. Agriculture Department's chief expert on Mad Cow disease, said from Maryland on Thursday that the two cows have shown no symptoms.

Detwiler said the USDA is monitoring those cows because it doesn't know whether they were given feed contaminated with the disease before they were imported at least five years ago, apparently from the Netherlands.

She said there's no chance that the cows could have infected other U.S. livestock with Mad Cow disease. To catch it, the animals would have had to eaten contaminated feed made from infected animals or eaten infected animals' brains, spinal cords or nerves, she said.

The two Minnesota cows and other cattle imported from the United Kingdom and Europe had been traced years ago by the USDA and quarantined, which meant they couldn't be slaughtered or sold to other private owners, Detwiler said.

""The USDA bought a number of them that people wanted to sell, and we are in the process of trying to buy the remaining animals,'' she said of the cows.

She would not release the owners' names or locations of the cows. Detwiler said she believes that in addition to the two Minnesota cows, 22 cows were imported to Texas and four to Vermont.

Also on Thursday, two flocks of imported sheep that might be infected with Mad Cow disease arrived at a government lab in Iowa by truck from Vermont. The 360 animals will be killed and their brain tissues tested.

Detwiler said the sheep had been imported from the Netherlands in 1996, where their feed may have contained the pathogen that causes Mad Cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. The sheep had been kept segregated and monitored during a long legal battle between the owners and the USDA.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow disease feared as U.S. seizes 234 sheep

Wilson Ring; The Associated Press

News Tribune--Saturday 24 March 2001


GREENSBORO, Vt. - Federal agents seized a Vermont farmer's flock of 234 sheep Wednesday for fear they are infected with a version of Mad Cow disease - the first such action ever taken against livestock in the United States.

The U.S. Agriculture Department "has no choice but to take this decisive action based on the threat the sheep pose to the health of America's livestock nationwide," said Craig Reed, administrator of USDA's animal and plant health inspection service.

A team of federal agents and agriculture officials arrived at Houghton Freeman's farm at daybreak. Two cattle trucks were loaded up by 11 a.m. and will take the sheep to Iowa, where they will be tested and destroyed.

Freeman and another farmer had waged a court battle to save their sheep after the Agriculture Department ordered the flocks seized last July.

The flocks consisted of sheep that either were imported from Belgium in 1996 or were descendants of those animals.

The seizure went peacefully, but Thomas Amidon, a lawyer for Freeman, called it "sad, depressing and a rushed judgment."

USDA spokesman Ed Curlett said the seizure was the first of any cow or sheep in the United States under suspicion of having an illness related to Mad Cow disease.

The USDA has said four sheep from Freeman's flock showed signs of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, a class of neurological diseases that includes both Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease, and scrapie, a sheep disease not harmful to humans.

The government said the sheep may have been exposed through contaminated European feed.

Scrapie shares certain characteristics with Mad Cow disease. Both illnesses can incubate for years before attacking an animal's central nervous system.

But scrapie has been around for 250 years and has never, as far as scientists can tell, jumped the species barrier to infect humans. Mad Cow disease has, with devastating results.

However, the USDA tests could not confirm whether the sheep have BSE. The animals will undergo further testing at a USDA lab in Ames, Iowa.

There have been no confirmed cases of Mad Cow disease in the United States. Scrapie has been in the United States since at least 1947. There never has been a documented case of a farm sheep coming down with Mad Cow, but scientists have proved in the lab that it is possible.

The sheep seized in Vermont are highly unusual and valuable East Friesians. They were not being raised for their wool or their meat but for their rich milk, used in making exotic cheeses.

The Vermont Health Department asked the sheep owners to stop selling the cheese last July. In Europe, there has been no evidence that Mad Cow disease can be spread through milk.

The second disputed flock of about 140 sheep is owned by Larry and Linda Faillace of East Warren. No date has been set to take their sheep.

Linda Faillace said Wednesday she felt "anger, frustration, disbelief" and accused the USDA of failing to heed science.

The human version of BSE, which like the animal version has a long incubation period, has killed almost 100 people in Britain and other European countries since 1995. The scare has virtually wiped out the British beef industry.

After losing their case in U.S. District Court in February, the Faillaces and Freeman appealed and asked that the seizure order be put on hold until the case had worked its way through the courts. An appeals court refused to stay the seizure but said it would hear the case.

The farmers also sought help from Vermont's congressional delegation, but all three members stood by the USDA.

"Too little is yet known about this disease, but we do know that it is deadly and that it has the potential to spread quickly, widely and insidiously if not handled early," Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords and Rep. Bernard Sanders said in a statement.

The Vermont Farm Bureau also supported the animals' destruction.

The USDA offered the farmers up to $2.4 million for their flocks last year, but they refused, deciding instead to continue their court fight. USDA veterinarian Dr. Linda Detwiler said the farmers will be compensated for the fair market value.

While the seizure was a first, a flock of 21 sheep from the same family of sheep was voluntarily turned over to government officials last summer by their Vermont owner and were destroyed.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Japan bans EU imports over foot-and-mouth fears

Ananova

PA News--Saturday 24 March 2001


Japan is to suspended all imports of pork, mutton and their processed products from the EU in an effort to keep foot-and-mouth disease at bay.

The measure will take effect on Saturday and continue for an unspecified period of time, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

The ministry will dispatch specialists to Britain, France, Italy, Denmark and Belgium to observe preventive measures before deciding to lift the ban.

Japan has already banned pork imports from Britain, Luxembourg, Greece, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Ireland to keep the disease out of the country.

Earlier this month, Japan began requiring airline passengers arriving directly from Europe to walk over germ-killing mats.

The government banned EU bull sperm, beef and food made from processed beef last year amid signs of spreading Mad Cow disease across Europe.

Mad Cow disease is believed to cause the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - U.S. Agriculture Dept confiscates sheep from Europe on fears of BSE

Ananova

PA News--Saturday 24 March 2001


NEW YORK (AFX) - A second flock of sheep imported from Europe, feared contaminated with a degenerative neurological disease class which includes Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) and scrapie, was confiscated from a farm in Vermont, U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jim Rogers said.

The 126 sheep are of Belgian and Dutch origin.

The first flock, confiscated on Wednesday have since been "humanely euthanized" and their brains examined for traces of the disease. The same fate awaits the latest flock.

Both flocks, which arrived in the United States in 1996, had been under quarantine in 1998 as a precaution after it was determined some of the sheep had tested positive for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Agents seize second Vermont sheep herd

Mike Riddell, AP

USA Today--Saturday 24 March 2001


EAST WARREN, Vt. (AP) - Federal agents trying to prevent Mad Cow disease from gaining a foothold in the United States seized a second flock of Vermont sheep Friday as protesters mockingly gave the Nazi salute. "They were stolen from our farm today," owner Larry Faillace said. The 126 sheep were loaded into a truck bound for Iowa, where they will be destroyed and their brains tested for Mad Cow disease.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow Disease Risk Small for Travelers

By Sherry Jacobson, The Dallas Morning News

Hotel Online--Saturday 24 March 2001


Mar. 23--The twin threats of "Mad Cow" and foot-and-mouth disease may be the biggest public health scare in recent memory, but for most Americans, it's mainly Europe's problem.

But what if you're planning a trip abroad this summer? Is it safe to eat the beef served in restaurants? Should you avoid other meat-based products? And will the worsening foot-and-mouth outbreak hinder excursions?

Travel agents across the United States are fielding such questions as the summer travel season approaches.

"We're not seeing a lot of trip cancellations, but I'm sure people are taking a wait-and-see attitude and may decide not to go after all," says Nancy A. Strong, whose Dallas firm, Strong Travel Services, normally books hundreds of trips abroad in the spring.

Tourist travel to Great Britain may be curtailed if certain attractions remain closed because of the growing outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The main concern is that visitors to farming areas will pick up the virus -- on their shoes or clothing -- and carry it to uninfected areas. It is not considered a threat to humans.

Local travel agents were notified recently that visitors to Stonehenge would not be allowed to leave their vehicles and roam the stone circle's rural site. Certain racing events also have been canceled.

"Some people will panic over anything," notes Phil Nelson of the AAA Travel Agency in North Dallas. "But we aren't seeing any negative effects on travel so far."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in on the threat of Mad Cow disease recently, advising travelers that the risk of acquiring a human form of the disease from eating beef in Europe "cannot be precisely determined." But there is no denying that people are dying from it.

The risk in Great Britain appears to be "extremely small, perhaps about 1 case per 10billion servings," the agency said. Most other European countries had about the same low risk level, although some concerns were raised about data in Greece and disease surveillance in Portugal.

Still, to be safe, travelers abroad should avoid eating beef and beef products, the CDC says. Or tourists can stick with solid pieces of muscle meat, such as steaks and roasts, staying away from hamburgers and sausage. Since ground meat comes from more than one animal, the possibility is greater that it harbors the agent that causes Mad Cow disease, experts say.

While the risk of infection seems remote, U.S. officials say it is better to err on the side of caution.

From the beginning of the Mad Cow disease outbreak nearly two decades ago through the end of December, 81 people had died in the United Kingdom, two in France and one in Ireland after suffering from a human form of the fatal brain condition. Called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, it promotes unnatural cell growth in the brain, causing dementia and, eventually, death in those who have been infected.

"There is a theoretical risk," Barbara Reynolds, a CDC spokeswoman, said of the possibility that a traveler could contract the illness. "For people who are concerned, we're trying to tell what they can do to avoid that risk. At this point, there are more questions than assurances."

Her words may not be comforting for anyone who has watched reports of the spread of Mad Cow disease, more formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Since it first sickened cattle on an English farm in 1984, an estimated 180,000 cattle in Great Britain have been infected with the disease. Hundreds more cases have been reported in cattle in the Republic of Ireland, Portugal, France and Switzerland, along with a sprinkling of cases in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

As a pre-emptive strike, nearly 4.5 million cattle have been slaughtered in Great Britain, despite having no symptoms of the disease. Health officials also halted the practice of using cattle remains as animal feed, which was believed to be a primary means of spreading the disease throughout Europe.

More harrowing than the animal loss, however, has been the uneasy wait for the appearance of additional human victims.

Almost a decade after the earliest case of Mad Cow disease, the first person, a young Welsh woman, was found to suffer from a new variant of the human form of the brain illness. The delayed appearance in humans suggests there may be a lengthy incubation period, but no one knows how long it takes to develop recognizable symptoms. So far, 10 to 15 Europeans have died from this form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in each of the past six years.

Although Europeans have been surrounded by Mad Cow fears for more than a decade, it may surprise American tourists when they discover the extent to which the disease crops up in everyday activities there, said several travel agents who have been abroad recently.

"They have these itty, bitty signs on the menus that say, `The beef is from Switzerland,'" recalled Patti Molai, who visited Paris with her family last Thanksgiving. "Every member of my family was worried about it, and they were eating turkey."

Ron Workman said he and other travelers were reassured that the chicken and beef were from Argentina before a meal was served on a recent Lufthansa flight from Europe. "We were on a cruise ship in Greece and Turkey, so we couldn't keep up with the news reports on the cattle problems," said Mr. Workman, the owner of Uniglobe First Place Travel in Richardson. "Nobody seemed preoccupied with it."

Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious disease that causes severe loss in production of meat and milk among infected animals. Most animals recover, however. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is only one recorded case of a person contracting foot-and-mouth disease. That occurred in 1966 in Britain. The victim developed flu symptoms with blisters and recovered. The disease does not affect food safety.

Still, the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among cattle and pigs on English farms could put a damper on tourism. Certain parts of the United Kingdom are temporarily off-limits to tourists. Visitors from England to Ireland were required to walk through a disinfectant bath.

In the United States, the Department of Agriculture is requiring travelers returning from Europe to declare whether they've been on a farm or in contact with livestock. If so, soiled footwear must be disinfected. Also, if the traveler owns livestock at home, soiled clothing must be washed and disinfected before re-entering the country, and livestock should be avoided for five days after returning.

Meat products from cattle, sheep, deer and other cloven-hooved animals will be confiscated on U.S. entry. Horses are not affected.

"It's all over the TV there," warned travel agent Strong, describing media coverage she saw about the foot-and-mouth outbreak while traveling recently in Egypt, Jordan and Israel. "You see the pictures of the burning animals and the people having to walk in disinfectant to stop the spread of disease. It will definitely affect tourism."

Such diseases simply drive home the point that people have to be careful when they travel, says Ms. Strong, who has been a travel agent for 25 years.

"They may tell you their water is purified, but the chemicals might not agree with you," she warned. "I brush my teeth in bottled water. I do not get sick when I travel."

Ms. Molai, who is a leisure and corporate consultant for Professional World Travel Inc., agrees that people should be more cautious when they travel.

"In this country, we are spoiled because everything is so perfect," she said of the United States. "I really don't want to scare anyone, but you have to be realistic. You have to be careful when you're away from home."

-----To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com/


24 Mar 01 - CJD - No Sign of Mad Cow Disease in 28 Cattle Under Watch

By Charles Abbott

NorthJersey.com--Saturday 24 March 2001


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday that 28 cattle imported from Europe, before a U.S. ban on such animals took effect, have shown no sign of Mad Cow disease during years of surveillance.

The animals belong to owners in Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and Illinois, and are examined several times a year by veterinarians for any sign of the brain-destroying disease.

No cases of Mad Cow disease, formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), have been found in the United States in a decade of monitoring native and imported cattle.

The cattle under surveillance were the last of slightly more than 500 head, predominantly from Ireland and Britain, brought to the United States before a ban on imports took effect. The others died of natural causes or were purchased by the government and destroyed.

``No evidence of BSE has been found in any of these imported animals,'' said the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Cattle under surveillance included four in Vermont, imported from Britain; two in Minnesota, which came from Belgium; one in Illinois, which originated in Germany; and 21 in Texas, which were imported from Germany.

``We are continuing to negotiate...to purchase these for diagnostic purposes,'' said Lisa Ferguson, a senior APHIS veterinarian. ``They are under quarantine. They are under continuous surveillance.''

U.S. officials monitor the animals because they were in Europe at a time when BSE was believed to have spread through cattle feed containing meat and bone meal made from infected animals.

Humans can contract a fatal version of the disease by eating meat products contaminated with diseased spinal cords and other nerve tissue.

As part of a program to keep BSE out of the United States, officials tracked cattle imported from Britain and Ireland from January 1981 until July 1989, when a ban on imports took effect. It was expanded to cover all of Europe in December 1997.

``These are some of the oldest, happiest cows, I think, in the United States,'' Ferguson said, referring to the four head in Vermont.

APHIS spokeswoman Anna Cherry said owners of the cattle under surveillance in the four states had declined offers to sell their animals. When each animal dies, as one did recently in Texas, it must be turned over to USDA for tissue sampling and tests.

``Nothing has ever indicated that any of the animals have any illness that we would be concerned about,'' Cherry said. ``We know where they are, we know where they've been, and we know where they are going.''

Officials said the imported animals would not enter the animal or human food chain when they die.

Speaking at a meat industry conference, Feguson said tests of tissue from more than 12,000 cattle since 1990 found no evidence of BSE in U.S. cattle. The samples were taken from animals suspected of nervous system disorders or unable to stand.

The animals belong to owners in Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and Illinois, and are examined several times a year by veterinarians for any sign of the brain-destroying disease.

No cases of Mad Cow disease, formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), have been found in the United States in a decade of monitoring native and imported cattle.

The cattle under surveillance were the last of slightly more than 500 head, predominantly from Ireland and Britain, brought to the United States before a ban on imports took effect. The others died of natural causes or were purchased by the government and destroyed.

``No evidence of BSE has been found in any of these imported animals,'' said the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Cattle under surveillance included four in Vermont, imported from Britain; two in Minnesota, which came from Belgium; one in Illinois, which originated in Germany; and 21 in Texas, which were imported from Germany.

``We are continuing to negotiate...to purchase these for diagnostic purposes,'' said Lisa Ferguson, a senior APHIS veterinarian. ``They are under quarantine. They are under continuous surveillance.''

U.S. officials monitor the animals because they were in Europe at a time when BSE was believed to have spread through cattle feed containing meat and bone meal made from infected animals.

Humans can contract a fatal version of the disease by eating meat products contaminated with diseased spinal cords and other nerve tissue.

As part of a program to keep BSE out of the United States, officials tracked cattle imported from Britain and Ireland from January 1981 until July 1989, when a ban on imports took effect. It was expanded to cover all of Europe in December 1997.

``These are some of the oldest, happiest cows, I think, in the United States,'' Ferguson said, referring to the four head in Vermont.

APHIS spokeswoman Anna Cherry said owners of the cattle under surveillance in the four states had declined offers to sell their animals. When each animal dies, as one did recently in Texas, it must be turned over to USDA for tissue sampling and tests.

``Nothing has ever indicated that any of the animals have any illness that we would be concerned about,'' Cherry said. ``We know where they are, we know where they've been, and we know where they are going.''

Officials said the imported animals would not enter the animal or human food chain when they die.

Speaking at a meat industry conference, Feguson said tests of tissue from more than 12,000 cattle since 1990 found no evidence of BSE in U.S. cattle. The samples were taken from animals suspected of nervous system disorders or unable to stand.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - Foot-and-mouth costing millions in lost trade

Ananova

Press Associaton---Saturday 24 March 2001


A Ministry of Agriculture expert says the foot-and-mouth outbreak could cost Britain more than 570 million a year in lost livestock and meat trade.

Robin Bell, who heads the ministry's veterinary international trade team, warns that it will be at least three months after the last case before Britain can restart its livestock and meat exports.

Speaking at a MAFF technical briefing in London, Bell said it might be possible to declare some regions of Britain as disease-free, but this would require vaccination and movement controls between areas.

"We are looking at somewhere over 570 million a year of trade that could be affected," he said.

Breaking down the total, Bell said Britain exported pork worth 250 million every year; lamb worth 197 million; and fresh cream worth 81 million. He said dairy products could still be exported, subject to heat treatment.

The export of breeding pigs earned Britain an additional 4 million a year, and lambs another 1 million a year. Bell said that breeding cattle were not currently exported because of BSE.

According to Bell, the length of time before Britain was declared disease-free again would vary according to the spread of the outbreak and the way it was treated. "Undoubtedly, we will lose some of our markets for some considerable time."

He said international animal health guidelines dictated that if Britain decided not to adopt a vaccination policy, it could be declared disease-free three months after the last case. If animals were vaccinated, this status would be granted three months after the last case and three months after the last vaccinated animal was slaughtered.

If Britain were to vaccinate but then not slaughter the immunised animals, it would be at least a year after the last vaccination and the last case of foot-and-mouth before it could restart exports.

And if Britain were to adopt a policy where infected animals were not slaughtered, then it would be two years after the last case and one year after the last vaccination before exports could restart.


24 Mar 01 - CJD - U.S. Seizes Second Sheep Flock on Mad Cow Concerns

By Roger Runningen

Bloomberg--Saturday 24 March 2001


East Warren, Vermont, March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Federal agents in Vermont seized 126 sheep that may carry a variant of Mad Cow disease, in the second roundup this week intended to protect the $45 billion U.S. livestock industry.

U.S. Agriculture Department agents herded the sheep onto trucks bound for a federal laboratory in Ames, Iowa, said Ted Joslin, a lawyer for the sheep's owners. USDA asserts the sheep, owned by Larry and Linda Faillace, may have been exposed to Mad Cow disease before they were imported from Europe in 1996.

``The USDA's here with their trucks, there's 30 to 40 federal marshals and state police, and there's a little demonstration going on, people with placards protesting, but it's peaceful,'' Joslin said by cell phone from the Faillace farm in East Warren.

The East Friesian milking sheep will be slaughtered and tested further for a variety of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE, a family of brain disorders that includes scrapie in sheep and Mad Cow disease in cattle.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman vowed yesterday to do everything possible to prevent Mad Cow disease or the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease from reaching the U.S., after outbreaks in Europe.

Earlier today, Japan, the world's biggest pork importer, said it will ban livestock and meat imports from the European Union, because foot-and-mouth disease has spread to the European continent. The import ban takes effect tomorrow.

EU Meat Banned

The U.S. banned imports of livestock and fresh meat, mainly pork ribs, from the European Union on March 13. USDA chief of Staff Dale Moore said he didn't know when the ban may be lifted, because disease outbreaks in Europe haven't reached their ``peak.'' The current outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease began in Britain on Feb. 21 and has since been discovered in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. The U.S. has been free of the disease, a virus that poses no risk to people but is devastating to the livestock industry, since 1929.

There have been no reported cases of Mad Cow disease, which is believed to transmitted through diseased meat, in the U.S. The illness has crippled the livestock industry in Europe, where the human version of the brain-wasting disorder has been blamed for about 90 deaths.

Today's sheep confiscation follows the seizure Wednesday of 234 sheep from a farm in Greensboro, Vermont, the USDA said. Those animals were also suspected of carrying a variant of Mad Cow disease. Both flocks were imported from Europe in 1996, and have been quarantined since 1998.

Four of the sheep tested positive for the TSE brain disorder last July. USDA can't say for sure whether the animals have scrapie, the sheep disease, or whether they are carrying Mad Cow disease.

``We don't want Mad Cow disease to establish a foothold in this country,'' Jim Rogers, a USDA spokesman in Vermont, said on Wednesday. ``We believe these sheep could be a possible risk for that.''

Joslin, the lawyer, said USDA's tests ``are at best, ambiguous,'' for disease, and that the owners believe the animals ``could continue to be monitored.'' Owners fought the case in federal court, though a judge refused to block the government's request to take control of the sheep.

The sheep were being ``tagged and marked to make sure they are all here,'' Joslin said, describing today's seizure. ``Everybody's been cool; everybody's been polite. It's a calm situation.''

The owners ``will be compensated for the fair market value of the sheep,'' the USDA said in a statement. There was no indication how much that might be.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Village's CJD Death Sentence

By John Askill

The Sun--Thursday 22 March 2001


Village of the damned... probe found local CJD deaths came from butchers

Worried residents of a village where the human form of Mad Cow disease killed five people were yesterday told there could be MORE victims.

The grim warning came as health experts revealed during a public meeting that the deaths were linked to two local butchers' shops.

Their eight-month probe found all five CJD victims ate beef contaminated by BSE-infected animal brains between 1980 and 1991.

The 50 villagers in Queniborough, Leics, heard that traditional techniques used by butchers and local abattoirs probably caused the contamination. The techniques have since been outlawed.

The experts, led by Dr Philip Monk, did their best to play down fears of more deaths - but admitted they could NOT be sure the toll would not rise.

Dr Monk said: "It is a very small risk but we are not able to say what will happen in future."

A local mum voiced the fears of the entire village when she said: "It could hit any of us. The chances may look small. But it's like the National Lottery - someone will be affected."

The locals sat in silence in the village rugby club as they listened to the inquiry report.

It pinpointed two unnamed butchers, both of whom ceased trading more than 12 years ago.

Arthur Beyless, whose daughter Pamela died from CJD in 1999, said after the meeting: "We loved beef. I'd load up the boot of my car with all the cuts - I thought I was giving my kids the best."

Milkman Arthur, 54, added: "I now worry desperately for my other two children. We all ate the same meat."

Dr Monk and his team said cattle from the surrounding area had been more likely than most to get BSE, or Mad Cow Disease.

They were fed for longer on the now-banned meat and bonemeal feed that caused BSE because they were weaned earlier and slaughtered later than other cows.

The two butcher shops at the centre of the probe processed entire carcasses.

This involved first splitting an animal's skull and removing the brain for sale. The inquiry said this was a "messy process" that probably allowed BSE-contaminated material to spread to the rest of the carcass and to knives used to prepare other cuts of meat.

Dr Gerry Bryant, another member of the inquiry team, said: "We must stress this was a legitimate practice at the time and a traditional butchering craft."

The experts say the incubation period for the CJD variant that killed the five locals is probably between 10 to 16 years.

They have urged that a close watch be kept in Queniborough for further signs of the disease.

The most recent victim was farmworker Christopher Reeve, 24. He died in September.

Three of the other victims - Stacey Robinson, 19, Pamela Beyless, 24, and Glen Day, 35 - died within a 12-week period that started in August 1998.

The fifth victim, an unnamed 19-year-old man, died last May.

Leading CJD expert Professor Richard Lacey yesterday cast doubt on the findings of the probe, saying: "It is really pure speculation, I'm afraid."

He said the report claimed BSE was transmitted to humans by eating meat - but insisted this was "assumed but not proven".

Mr Lacey claimed the infection could equally well be passed via milk or through the air.

He said the purpose of the report was "to reassure people and find a scapegoat - a local butcher."

He added: "This has been the whole basis of the reaction to CJD over 15 years."

'It's tip of iceberg'

From OLIVER HARVEY in Queniborough

ONE concerned villager said last night: "I fear that this is just the tip of the iceberg."

The middle-aged woman, who did not want to be named, added: "Some of us fear that soon someone will be dying in every street of the village.

"This has been hanging over us for years now. The damage has been done and we are sitting on a time bomb."

Mum-of-two Dawn Bowler, 30, said many had started referring to Queniborough as the village of the damned. She added: "I am the same age as some of those who perished and I know I could be next.

"But you have just got to get on with your life and hope it isn't you.

"I ate meat in the 70s and 80s so there's nothing I can do about it now.

"I think that's what most people in the village think. They're just getting on with their lives."

Dairy farmer Richard Mann, 64, said: "I've been farming here all my life and this has hit the village hard.

"But there's no point us stopping eating beef now, as the infections happened at least 10 years ago."

The village. which has a main street lined with 200-year-old thatched cottages, was once dominated by farming families.

Now it is home to many who have moved out to the country and commute to work.

Mum Mandy Simms, 31, recently moved into the area. She said: "It's strange being at the centre of this, but people here are resolute. They seem more worried about petrol prices."

Postmistress Joan Johnson, 55, is worried that the reputation of Queniborough has suffered.

She said: "It's a beautiful village - and this has been such a blight on it. It's a tragedy. But life here will go on."

Some in the village still do not believe the five died from CJD.

Farm labourer Andrew Bishop, 22, said: "This CJD is a load of rubbish. I've been eating beef since I was a baby and it's done me no harm."


22 Mar 01 - CJD - "Mad Cow" disease may hit thousands of Britons

Reuters

YAHOO--Thursday 22 March 2001


LONDON (Reuters) - The fatal human form of "Mad Cow" disease, which has no known cure, could hit thousands or tens of thousands of Britons over the coming years, a senior academic has warned.

Professor John Collinge, a leading expert who has briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on the condition, said the average incubation period for new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) could be 30 years, higher than previously thought.

"That we may see thousands or tens of thousands (of vCJD cases) certainly has to be seriously considered," Collinge said.

He was commenting on a report on Wednesday from the village of Queniborough, where a cluster of five deaths from the disease offered some clues to how it is transmitted from cattle to humans and how widespread it could become.

"For me the main finding from this report is the fact that the significant exposure appears to predate 1985," Collinge told BBC radio. "That sent a little chill down my spine, certainly."

He said that known cases of vCJD are "by definition those with the shortest incubation period".

"I think given that it looks as though these cases may have been exposed prior to 1985 when there was very little BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) around...many more cases must be in the pipeline," he added.

The brain-wasting disease, which devastated Britain's cattle industry, was first identified in 1986 and peaked in 1992.

There are 95 confirmed or probable cases of vCJD, the grim condition that leads to the gradual loss of coordination and speech and ultimately death.

The Queniborough report pointed to local butchers as the most likely cause of the disease spreading from cattle to humans.

But scientists remain divided over how the disease is passed on. Most believe it is caused by prion proteins, which can cause the brain to become spongy and eventually wither.

Collinge said that despite progress in research into vCJD, it could take "some years" to find a cure.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - 'vCJD may take 30 years to show'

Staff Reporter

YAHOO--Thursday 22 March 2001


The incubation period of variant CJD may be as long as 30 years, a leading scientist says.

Professor John Collinge, a member of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), which advises the government on BSE, said this could mean that thousands of people could eventually die from the human form of Mad Cow disease.

It is thought that vCJD is contracted by eating meat contaminated with BSE.

Professor Collinge's comments come the day after the publication of the official report into cluster of vCJD in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough, which claimed the lives of five people.

The report found that traditional techniques at small abattoirs linked to a handful of local butchers were the most likely cause of the cluster because they were most likely to lead spread the BSE agent to cuts of meat for human consumption.

The experts who carried out the study estimated that the incubation period of vCJD was likely to be between 10 and 16 years.

Chill down spine

But speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Professor Collinge said: "For me the main finding from this report is that the significant exposure appears to pre-date 1985 .

"That sent a little chill down my spine , certainly. It fits with our estimates that we have been making of the likely incubation periods of BSE in humans.

"The cases we are seeing at the moment are by definition those with the shortest incubation periods.

"The average incubation period could well be in the region of 30 years."

Professor Collinge said a 30-year incubation period had implications for the likely toll of the disease on the human population.

He said: "Unfortunately what follows from that, since the exposure of the population after 1985 was very much larger than that that preceded it, (is that) many more cases must be in the pipeline ."

However, Professor Collinge said that it was unlikely that the epidemic would run into six figures.

He said: "We may see thousands, or tens of thousands ."


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Secret of CJD stays locked away

Alan Macdermid

The Herald--Thursday 22 March 2001


Major questions over the human form of Mad Cow disease remained unanswered yesterday even after a plausible explanation emerged for the UK's biggest cluster of cases.

Investigators have linked four of the five cases of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease in the area around the Leicestershire village of Queniborough to traditional meat processing techniques used by two local butchers between 1980-1991. It had not been possible to trace the butcher used by the fifth victim.

But health experts said last night that these practices were not unique to that area, and were not the only possible route of contamination.

The Leicestershire health authority report did not explain the comparative youth of most vCJD victims - the average age is 27.5. Most importantly, it left experts still guessing as to how many people in the country may be harbouring the vCJD agent. Nearly 100 people have already succumbed.

Professor Hugh Pennington, professor of microbiology at Aberdeen University, said: "It is a very plausible story and underlines what we know already, but does not explain why there was a cluster, because I do not think what they were doing was unique. It also does not explain why the victims were so young. It is very important data and very useful to have, but it has not unlocked the secret of CJD."

The factors which conspired to cast the shadow of Mad Cow disease over Queniborough were:

* The beef raised in that area tended to be from cattle reared alongside dairy cattle. As such, they were fed meat and bone meal supplements - since implicated as the source of BSE - from the age of six days, rather than the six months when pure beef cattle would be started;

* Being slower to fatten, they were also slaughtered at 30-36 months and were then more likely to be harbouring BSE;

* One of the butchers slaughtered beasts in his own abattoir, the other had them slaughtered by a small local abattoir;

* As well as stunning the animals with a bolt, it was the practice in small abattoirs to shove a rod through the stun hole into the brain to suppress reflex kicking. Butchers would split the skulls and remove the sticky brain;

* Unlike the larger abattoirs, the smaller ones did not hose down the slaughtered beasts, but wiped them with cloths, increasing risks of cross-contamination.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in public health medicine, who led the investigation, admitted that their conclusions were unlikely, on a national basis, to explain how all of the people who have developed the disease were exposed to the BSE agent.

Other possible routes include contamination of meat with fragments of spinal cord removed during the mechanical retrieval of remnants of meat which tended to go into pies.

Slaughtering procedures have been tightened to prevent this contamination.

Dr Monk said: "These were traditional craft butchering practices carried out by people who were experts in their tradition. None of them were illegal."

Meanwhile, banned spinal cord has been discovered in a consignment of imported beef from Italy, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said yesterday.

It was found at a meat cutting plant in Blackburn, Lancashire.

The cord, thought to pose the greatest risk of BSE, was in 41 forequarters of beef at Great Harwood Food Products.

The company was unaware of the problem until they opened the consignment from the Industria Carni FSC abattoir in Torino, Italy, the FSA said. The National Farmers' Union called for the Italian abattoir involved to be shut down.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Cruellest cut

Staff Reporter

New Scientist---Thursday 22 March 2001


Traditional butchering practices caused a cluster of British deaths from the human form of Mad Cow disease

Traditional butchering practices, now outlawed, very probably caused a cluster of deaths in a British village from variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, the human form of Mad Cow disease.

This is the key finding of an official report released on 21 March by Leicestershire Health Authority. Officials traced four of the five vCJD deaths in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough unequivocally to contamination of meat products with BSE-infected cattle brains.

It is first time a direct link has been made between meat consumption and vCJD. The investigation has resulted in more information on the incubation time of vCJD - ten to 16 years. This is crucial for predicting the size of any future epidemic. The findings also emphasise the highly infectious nature of the rogue "prion" proteins.

The researchers believe the likelihood of similar events having occurred elsewhere in the UK is "very, very small".

Spilled brains

The investigators concluded that between 1980 and 1985, the year when the first case of BSE came to light, butchers in Queniborough had the misfortune to receive some of the tiny number of animals then harbouring the disease.

When they cut out the brains, highly infective tissue containing the prions which cause BSE spilled onto surfaces in the shop. This then tainted other meat products which were eaten by the victims.

"They split the heads to remove the brain, and released gelatinous material likely to stick to knives, hands, slabs and surfaces," says Gerry Bryant, a public health specialist who co-authored the report.

Philip Monk, the consultant in communicable disease control at Leicestershire Health Authority who led the inquiry, said that contrary to earlier media speculation, butchers knives were not solely responsible. He says that once the brain had been removed and "put on the slab", any number of infectious routes were possible.

Chain of events

A key message, however, is that the contamination came from a chance combination of extremely unlikely events.

First, the butchers were extremely unlucky to receive one of the few BSE infected cows. Second, the number of animals slaughtered by butchers themselves was extremely low. Most would have gone to abattoirs.

Third, customer demand for brains was extremely low and falling, so the chances the butcher would chop out the brain were low as well.

Fourth, people would not necessarily go on to develop vCJD even if they ate some contaminated meat. The dose might be too low, or they might have a genetic constitution resistant to the disease.

Tiny risk

The upshot, Monk says, is that such unique combinations of circumstances were extremely unlikely to have led to infections elsewhere in the country, although they could not be ruled out completely. "The risk is very, very small," he said at a public meeting held near Queniborough to inform the residents of the village.

Despite this, the investigators say that their verdict provides by far the most plausible explanation. "This result is very statistically significant, and very unlikely to be a chance finding," says Bryant. "We were able to trace all these meat processing steps to two local retail butchers."

Butchers in Queniborough abandoned this practice after 1989, when the sale of brains for human consumption was banned. But the investigators established that the period of significant exposure for the individuals who later developed the disease was between 1980 and 1985.

The five residents of Queniborough developed their symptoms between 1996 and 1999. From this, the team concludes that the incubation period between eating infected meat and developing vCJD must be 10 to 15 years.

Peppercorn-sized dose

Bryant says that the disease might predominate among young people because they succumb after a shorter incubation period. The other possibility is that elderly people - who were most likely to eat brains - had the same incubation period, but died of other diseases before they developed symptoms of vCJD.

The team's other alarming conclusion is that because exposure must have been low, the dose required to infect people must have also been low. Bryant pointed out that it takes just a peppercorn-sized gram of infective material from cow brains to infect another cow.

In the wake of their findings, the Leicestershire team urges health officials to re-examine other cases of vCJD to see if the same link emerges. "Then, you'll find how important this is and can use it for predicting the future size of any epidemic," says Bryant. So far, 97 Britons have developed vCJD, a disease which is always fatal.

The Department of Health says it will study the team's report and ask experts in its Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) to spell out the implications for the spread of the disease, and for the future direction of research.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Mad Cow fears in United States

Washington correspondent Matt Kaye

ABC News--Thursday 22 March 2001


In the United States, Department of Agriculture officials have removed a flock of sheep from a farm in Vermont, amid fears they have a Mad Cow-like disease.

The two hundred and thirty-three sheep were first quarantined last year, and another flock of sixty-five in the same region have also been removed.

Matt Kaye: US officials seized the animals - imported from Belgium and the Netherlands and likely exposed to Mad Cow-contaminated feed there - after a lengthy court battle with the US owners. Some of the sheep tested positive last July for a class of degenerative neurological diseases that includes Mad Cow and scrapie.

But USDA veterinarian Linda Detwiler says there's no way to know which disease the sheep have.

Linda Detwiler: Routine diagnostic processes now do not differentiate between scrapie, a strain of scrapie and BSE. The only way to do that currently, that's known to science, is to take brain samples from the animals.

Matt Kaye: The sheep will now be destroyed and tissue samples tested. Mad Cow disease has never been diagnosed in the US, but USDA says it took the latest action based on the threat the sheep posed to the health of America's livestock nationwide.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Human ``Mad Cow'' Incubation Period Could Be 30 Years

By Richard Woodman

YAHOO--Thursday 22 March 2001


LONDON (Reuters Health) - The findings of the inquiry into a cluster of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) cases--the human version of Mad Cow disease--suggest the fatal disease has an average incubation period of 30 years and may claim thousands or tens of thousands more victims, a leading scientist warned on Thursday.

The inquiry report into five deaths in the English village of Queniborough, Leicestershire, blamed specific butchering methods for contamination of meat with bovine brain and estimated an incubation period of the disease between 10 and 16 years. The report was issued Wednesday.

But Professor John Collinge, a member of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), which advises the government on Mad Cow disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), told BBC Radio: ``For me the main finding from this report is that the significant exposure appears to pre-date 1985.

``That sent a little chill down my spine, certainly. It fits with our estimates that we have been making of the likely incubation periods of BSE in humans.''

Professor Collinge, a specialist in prion protein diseases at St. Mary's Hospital, London, pointed out: ``The cases we are seeing at the moment are by definition those with the shortest incubation periods.'' Prions are the infectious proteins thought to cause both BSE and vCJD.

Therefore, the average incubation period could ``well be in the region of 30 years''.

He added: ``Unfortunately what follows from that, since the exposure of the population after 1985 was very much larger than that that preceded it, (is that) many more cases must be in the pipeline. ``We may see thousands, or tens of thousands.''


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Kangaroo and ostrich tempts disease-ridden Europe

Reuters

YAHOO--Thursday 22 March 2001


SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's kangaroo meat exporters are jumping with joy as Europe's foot and mouth crisis and renewed fears over Mad Cow disease raise hopes of Australia's national icon becoming a regular dish on European dinner tables.

Export sales were up by 20 percent in the first few months of this year as foot and mouth disease swept through Britain and into Europe, industry officials said on Wednesday.

Ostrich farmers in Sweden and Israel have also reported a surge in demand as European consumers' appetite for conventional meats has waned.

"We see a big increase," Mats Ericsson, chairman of the Swedish Ostrich Association, told Reuters by telephone.

"We don't want to ride on anybody else's misfortunes but it is a fact that people are looking around for foods that are not linked to any of these diseases," he said.

Each ostrich is good for on average 30 kg of meat. Ostriches don't mind snow and are let outside every day of the year even in Nordic Sweden. The birds voluntarily move indoors to seek shelter from the wind, he said.


22 Mar 01 - CJD - Banned spinal cord found in imported beef

Ananova

PA News--Thursday 22 March 2001


Food safety watchdogs want an Italian abattoir to be closed after banned spinal cord was found in a consignment of imported beef.

The Food Standards Agency says it was found at a meat cutting plant in Blackburn.

The cord was in neck vertebrae of 41 forequarters of beef at Great Harwood Food Products.

The company was unaware of the problem until they opened the consignment from the Industria Carni FSC abattoir in Turin, the FSA says.

Spinal cord must be removed when the animal is slaughtered under EU rules because it is thought to pose the greatest risk of carrying BSE.

Details of the breach have been sent to the Italian Embassy in London and authorities in Italy.

The FSA also called on the authorities to suspend the licence of the abattoir involved.

It is the 12th breach in imported meat since January 17, the FSA says.