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From: TSS (
Subject: N&N in 'mad cow' blood scare
Date: September 23, 2004 at 6:41 am PST

N&N in 'mad cow' blood scare

September 23, 2004 12:14
UP to 50 former patients who had blood transfusions at the Norfolk and Norwich University and James Paget hospitals have been warned they could have been infected with the human form of mad cow disease.

Hospital bosses have written to people who were exposed to blood products before 1999 when new precautions were introduced.

Nationally about 6,000 people are thought to be at risk of contracting variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), after it emerged at least nine blood donors had developed the illness.

The Government is playing down the risks but 143 of the 147 people who have contracted vCJD in Britain have so far died.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital today said there was a very small risk to patients, but admitted letters would go out to "selected patients" who had received plasma transfusions at the site as a 'precautionary' measure.

A spokeswoman said: "We are currently writing to those of our patients who may be affected by what is a very small risk.

"In terms of numbers we are talking about no more than 30 patients who may be at a small risk."

James Paget chief executive David Hill said: "There are around 20 patients who may have been at risk following blood transfusions. The risk is very low and we are carrying out these procedures in accordance with national precautions and guidelines."

People that could have been affected include those with haemophilia and other blood disorders and a small group of people with primary immunodefiency.

Exact numbers across the country will not be established until patient records have been fully examined, a process which began on September 9.

Anne Walker, co-founder of the Norwich Hepatitis C Support Group, said: "Anyone receiving that letter today must be feeling very frightened and angry — especially if they've already had the devastating experience of contracting a fatal virus such as hepatitis C or HIV through NHS blood.

"It is shocking but haemophiliac patients requesting synthetic products because of concerns about possible vCJD contamination are still sometimes refused by the NHS on cost grounds. I think we need a public inquiry into the whole issue but the Government won't do a public inquiry."

She said she knew of at least three patients who had received blood and blood products from donors subsequently found to have vCJD. She said they were now contacting lawyers to organise post-mortem investigations at Edinburgh's CJD Surveillance Unit, the UK's national centre after they died.

She said they were worried they did have vCJD but would die before it was proved.

She added: "After they die they want scientists to examine samples from their brain, pancreas, tonsils and spleen after they die to establish whether they also have the incurable brain-wasting condition.

"If the patients — all exposed to vCJD in the 1990s — are found to be incubating the disease after death, it would provide the strongest evidence yet of blood-to-blood transfer of the vCJD virus and spark a massive compensation case against the Government and the NHS."

There is currently no test or cure for CJD but the Department of Health is now banning people concerned from donating blood, tissue or other organs and are required to tell doctors and dentists when they have any treatment.

# A helpline has been set up to answer queries about the issue on 0845 8509850

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