Death of farmer 'not linked to mad cow disease'

THE DEPARTMENT of Health yesterday swiftly rejected allegations that 'mad cow disease' might have played a role in the death of a second dairy farmer from the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Duncan Templeman, 65, lost several animals to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from his 100-strong herd at Weston Farm, near Crewkerne, Somerset. He died from CJD on 24 July but his death was only revealed this week. Peter Warhurst, 61, from Lancashire, died last September of CJD, two years after one of his cattle was slaughtered because of BSE.

But the Department of Health said that Mr Templeman's illness and that of his cows occurred within months of each other. As CJD is known to take many years to develop, it is extremely unlikely that he could have caught the disease from his cows. It is more likely that the animals and the farmer were developing their diseases in parallel, without any link.

Although CJD is rare - there were 48 cases in Britain last year - two cases could occur in dairy farmers who have infected herds by chance. Mad cow disease has been widespread among British dairy herds, so the chances are that any dairy farmers affected by CJD will have had cows affected by mad cow disease.

It is more than five years since the Government banned cattle feed containing contaminated remains of sheep, but because the disease has an incubation period of at least four years the number of cattle dying from BSE is still rising. Confirmed BSE cases are averaging 750 to 850 a week - more than this time last year - but the Ministry of Agriculture expects that while the cumulative total will continue to rise, the rate will begin to slacken off as the effects of the cattle feed ban take effect.

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