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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 18:00 GMT
13-year-old may have CJD
CJD has been linked to particles called prions

Doctors believe they have found the youngest ever sufferer of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD).

The 13-year-old, whose identity and whereabouts are being kept secret, is thought to be displaying symptoms of early vCJD.

If confirmed, it means she may have been "infected" by baby food, and could shed light on the incubation period of the disease.

So far the youngest of the 48 people to have died from vCJD has been 16.

The girl was less than one year old in 1986 when BSE, the cattle disease thought to be linked to vCJD, was first formally identified.

It was another three years before the government banned cow brains and spinal cords from human food products.

The initial symptoms of vCJD include memory problems, social withdrawal, mood swings and depression.

Unsteadiness and hallucinations

Later the sufferer becomes unsteady and may suffer hallucinations or jerking of the limbs and head.

The disease is irreversible and eventually leads to coma and death.

David Churchill, chairman of the support group the Human BSE Foundation, said: "This case raises a whole new spectre. There's no way anyone can say this child picked up vCJD prior to knowledge about BSE.

"It can only have been picked up after the emergence of BSE, and the likelihood is that it was through baby food."

However, Heather Paine, spokeswoman for the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, said that as far as she knew, no high-risk beef material had ever been used in processed baby foods.

"Manufacturers are very aware of what mothers want to feed their babies."

The diagnosis of vCJD is hard to confirm, and usually this can be done only after death.

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See also:
13 Nov 99 |  Health
Blood test for CJD created
18 Aug 99 |  Health
Brain scans diagnose vCJD
01 May 99 |  Health
CJD mimics psychiatric disorders

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