A woman from Kent has died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE, health authorities said yesterday. The death of the woman, a 29- year-old accountancy student, fits the pattern of deaths among younger patients which prompted fears that CJD might be caused by BSE-infected beef in the human food chain.
A spokesman for Kent and Canterbury Hospital, where the woman died on 9 February, said: "A woman did die from CJD at the hospital. We referred the case to the health authority."
Chandra Kumar, consultant in communicable disease control with East Kent Health Authority, said: "Tests are being carried out, but the results are not yet known. It is not a notifiable disease, but because of the current situation, this case has been brought to our attention." It is not known whether the case has been referred to the Government-funded CJD Surveillance Unit, which is looking at all deaths from the disease to try to establish a pattern. A spokeswoman there said: "We do not discuss individual cases."
The victim, who had been ill for two years, is not being identified by the hospital at the request of her family but she is believed to have come from Canterbury. The case is thought to be only the second in Kent in 20 years.
The woman is not one of the 10 CJD victims who scientists previously studied and who they believe may have have acquired a new strain of the disease from beef infected with BSE. Those cases prompted last week's government announcement which led to the current beef scare. What concerned scientists is that those with the new CJD strain had an average age of 27 and were 42 or younger when they died, whereas previously the average age of victims of the disease was 63. The incubation period for the illness is five to 15 years.Reuse content