BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Health officials say meat now is safe"
 real 56k

June Beyless
whose daughter contracted and died from CJD describes her symptoms
 real 28k

Dr Philip Monk, leading the investigation
"This is a cluster unlikely to have occured by chance"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 06:20 GMT 07:20 UK
CJD scientists probe abattoirs
Queniborough is at the centre of a major inquiry
Queniborough is at the centre of a major inquiry
Scientists investigating a cluster of deaths from new variant CJD around a village in Leicestershire say they are focusing their inquiry on the slaughtering practices of 10 abattoirs.

Four young people from around the village of Queniborough have died from what is thought to be the human form of BSE over the last few years.

We will be looking to see...where meat from those slaughter houses entered the food chain

Dr Philip Monk
The experts examining the possible link say they are confident that local butchers' shops are not at fault, but research will continue to see if people in the area are more susceptible to the disease.

Dr Philip Monk, a consultant in communicable diseases, told the BBC: "We will be looking to see what patterns of slaughtering took place in this area of Leicestershire and where meat from those slaughterhouses entered the food chain."

He said the area was historically home to a large number of individual, local slaughterhouses and said scientists would be examining the past slaughtering practices of seven smaller abattoirs, and three larger ones in Leicester itself.

Pamela Beyless
Pamela Beyless died from CJD
The human form of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) claimed three lives in Leicestershire within 12 weeks in 1998.

Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough, and Pamela Beyless, 24, from nearby Glenfield, died in October. Stacey Robinson, 19, formerly of Queniborugh, died two months earlier in August.

A 19-year-old man died from the disease in May at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and, at the time, health officials said it was "highly probable" that a 24-year-old man in the county had also contracted it.

Junior health minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said the cases were unlikely to be a statistical quirk.

Warning of epidemic

News of the latest moves in the inquiry follows comments by a leading CJD expert expressing concern about the rising numbers of confirmed CJD cases.

Professor Roy Anderson told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that the rate of CJD cases emerging in 2000 suggested that an epidemic of the disease was already under way in the UK.

When the first cases of the new variant disease came to light in 1995, there were three cases, followed by 10 in both 1996 and 1997 and 18 in 1998, he said.

Professor Anderson said: "This year, 2000, we have had 12 cases already and the total is likely to be greater than any previous year, so this epidemic is just starting.

"It may be a small epidemic, and all of us hope it will be, but this disease has such a long incubation period, where exposure was probably in the late 1980s, that it's far too early to say whether it will be small, medium or large."

Scientific research
Research is being carried out in Queniborough
The investigation into the Leicestershire cluster included a large team of officials from bodies such as the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh.

They will work closely with the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Support groups for CJD victims and their families have welcomed the investigation.

Clive Evers, chairman of the CJD Support Network, said: "We need more knowledge about CJD to see if there is some environmental effect, particular to the area, which might switch the disease on in some people."

It has come too late for the people who have already died

Frances Hall
BSE campaigner

Frances Hall, secretary of the Human BSE Foundation, also welcomed the investigation.

"These cases obviously need investigation," she said.

"Sadly, it comes too late for the people who have already died."

The Leicestershire CJD "cluster" was first reported in November 1998, after the first three deaths.

Health officials in the county have so far been operating a wait and see policy on how the disease develops.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console





See also:

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories