Brain disorder claims new 'mad cow' farmer

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Health Editor

Doctors have reported a third case of a degenerative brain disorder in a dairy farmer who worked with cattle suffering from "mad cow disease".

The 54-year-old man, who had symptoms including forgetfulness, slurred speech, and altered behaviour, died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) just six weeks after being admitted to hospital.

The man had worked all his life on a dairy farm where there had been three cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (or "mad cow disease") in 1988, 1991 and 1992. In 1993, two dairy farmers whose herds were infected with BSE died from CJD. The Department of Health has said there is no statistical significance in these deaths.

CJD is a rapidly progressive and incurable disease of the nervous system, in which the brain becomes "spongy", ridden with holes and similar in appearance to the brains of cattle with BSE.

Dr Philip Smith, from the National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, writing in the Lancet, says: "The occurrence of CJD in another dairy farmer with a potential occupational exposure to BSE is clearly a matter of concern." Dr Smith adds that the probability of discovering three or more dairy farmers with CJD by chance since 1990 in England and Wales range from 1 in 10 to about 1 in 5,000 depending on the type of farm and the work done.