Fitness fanatic is latest victim of CJD strain

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The Independent Online
The toll of cases of the fatal new variant of Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease, v-CJD, thought to be caused by exposure to "mad cow disease", is rising inexorably.

Yesterday a 36-year-old fitness fanatic living in Ripley, Derbyshire, was revealed as the 26th known British case, leaving his parents distraught at the sight of their son slowly dying before their eyes.

Chris Warne, a computer systems analyst, was officially diagnosed as having v-CJD three weeks ago after first showing signs of illness at the end of last year. Formerly a keen footballer, cricketer and skier, he now needs round-the-clock care at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, where doctors say he has less than a year to live.

"I saw him at the hospital. He was standing and then his legs went from under him," his father Terry, 65, said last night. "It was like that clip they show on TV of the cow with BSE."

Bovine spongiform encepalopathy (BSE) was first recognised in April 1985, though scientists have calculated that 30,000 BSE-infected animals may have been used for food in the five previous years. Between 1985 and 1989 - after the discovery - almost half a million BSE-infected cattle were used for food, according to Professor Roy Anderson of Oxford University.

The rapid rise in v-CJD cases echoes that of BSE, which rose from a few hundred cases a year, to thousands. More than 163,000 BSE cases have been confirmed since 1985, but CJD typically takes more than 10 years to show up. In 1994 there were three v-CJD deaths. In 1995 there were 10. So far this year 13 people have been confirmed with the incurable illness.

Mr Warne's symptoms began nine months ago when he became tired and withdrawn and received treatment for stress. Within six months he had been forced to give up his job and was admitted to Derbyshire Royal Infirmary for tests, after which his parents were told their son had CJD. Yesterday they decided to make their son's condition public to raise awareness of the disease.

His mother Shirley, 60, said: "We knew about CJD but like everyone else we thought it would never happen to us. When Chris was in hospital I prepared myself for the worst but never dreamt he would have something like this. We were numb.

"We just can't help him and there's nothing anybody else can do. You do find yourself wringing your hands and feeling completely helpless. But by going public this is our way of helping and hope this will put pressure on the authorities to undertake more research."

Terry Warne said that "Chris was a healthy eater because he had his sports at the back of his mind. Now he doesn't even know where he is or why, and he has never even asked what is wrong with him."