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From: TSS ()
Subject: Swift action on vCJD needed / Blaming foreign beef ignores risk of domestic cattle infection
Date: March 14, 2005 at 10:49 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Swift action on vCJD needed / Blaming foreign beef ignores risk of domestic cattle infection
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 12:54:18 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
To: BSE-L@KALIV.UNI-KARLSRUHE.DE


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Swift action on vCJD needed / Blaming foreign beef ignores risk of
domestic cattle infection

Koichi Yasuda and Shigehisa Hanamura Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

The health ministry recently reported it was highly likely a Japanese
man who died from the human variant of mad cow disease in December
contracted the disease in Britain in the first half of 1990.

After the man was confirmed last month as the first Japanese to die of
the human version of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (vCJD), a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel on CJD and
other diseases conducted a follow-up study to determine exactly when the
man had been in Britain and his movements there.

After interviews with the man's family and studying his passport, the
committee found he spent 24 days in Britain in the first half of 1990,
where he ate hamburgers and pies made from beef cattle fed with
bonemeal. Beef from bonemeal-fed cattle is believed to be the most
likely source of infection for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The panel also found he had never received blood transfusions.

With these findings, the committee concluded it was highly likely the
man was infected with vCJD during his stay in Britain.

In Britain, up to 25,000 cattle were found to have been infected with
BSE annually from 1989 to 1991.

In 1989, the British government banned the sale of food made from
certain parts of cattle, including the brains and spinal cords. These
parts of cattle were thought the most likely to be contaminated with
BSE, as they can contain an abnormal prion protein, a pathogen of vCJD.

But the British government took no measures until 1996 against the
marketing of head meat and ground meat--made by grinding up spinal cords
feared to have been contaminated with the abnormal prion.

The ministry panel's conclusion that it is highly likely the man
contracted the disease while in Britain seems reasonable--he ate beef in
a country with infected cattle and is believed to have not been infected
through medical treatment.

Still, the panel's conclusion is little more than speculation based on
limited facts and circumstantial evidence. An investigation that goes
back more than 10 years is hardly likely to be conclusive.

The panel also found that in 1990 the man spent three days in France,
where several vCJD cases have been reported.

Committee Chairman Prof. Tetsuyuki Kitamoto of Tohoku University, said
the man's infection in France or in Japan could not be ruled out
completely.

The issue is affecting the blood donation program conducted by the
Japanese Red Cross Society. The ministry is planning to restrict blood
donations from people who visited Britain or France between 1980 and
1996, even if only for a day.

The Red Cross is concerned about a shortage of blood, since the number
of annual 5.5 million blood donors is expected to be cut by several
hundreds of thousand as a result.

But although the possibility of the disease spreading through
transfusions is seen as low, the measure is inevitable.

It is necessary to build a better health-care system and put together
measures to prevent infections, as infections within Japan are still
possible.

The man who died in December was first believed to have contracted
sporadic CJD, but an autopsy found he actually died of vCJD.

Infections with vCJD have predominantly been found among young people.
Although infections with CJD have been confirmed mainly among the
elderly in Japan, 20 people in their 30s and 40s also have contracted CJD.

Of the 20, 11 have died. But of the 11, autopsies were not performed on
seven of them, the House of Representatives Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries Committee revealed last month.

A more thorough medical system is needed to ensure better safety
measures are followed. All suspicious cases need to be examined to
confirm whether they are vCJD.

The greatest concern in terms of domestic infection is whether beef
contaminated with the abnormal prion has reached consumers or will in
the future.

Japan began testing all cattle for mad cow disease in October 2001, a
measure considered the world's strictest.

But the danger from pithing--the mashing of the slaughtered cow's brain
or spinal chords by a rod introduced through a hole in the
skull--employed when killing and disassembling the animal, has been
highlighted.

Pithing is carried out to prevent injury or other mishaps to
slaughterhouse workers from involuntary kicking by stunned animals. If
any abnormal prion protein were contained in the brain tissue, it could
contaminate meat.

The method is currently employed at 70 percent of slaughterhouses. The
Food Safety Commission has unsuccessfully proposed the discontinuation
of the practice.

Measures to cope with the danger of infection need be taken quickly in
order to win back consumer confidence.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20050315wo41.htm

TSS

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