LETTER : BSE: who will care for the thousands of victims?

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The Independent Online
Sir: As the organisation that offers support and information to the families of people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, we are appalled by the prospect of a epidemic of infected people (reports, 21 March).

Professor John Pattison, chairman of SEAC, the government-appointed expert committee on BSE, says that up to 500,000 people may have been infected before the bovine offal ban in 1989.

The Government failed to act at the earliest possible opportunity to put sufficient funds into research. It is essential we know how this disease develops in humans and to what extent it can be passed from person to person. We are concerned there are few facilities in the UK to carry out such transmission studies.

The members of our network, and the 650,000 people in this country who suffer other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease, know that care in the community is ill-equipped to look after these people in future. Those of us at the sharp end of community care, who are looking after people with dementia, have been a soft target for health cuts in the past. In particular health authorities have failed to provide for the 17,000 younger people with dementia to which the new cases of CJD will be added.

The Government owes it to the people who have become infected to prepare sufficiently and commit enough funding to care services to make their last months as dignified as possible.

Clive Evers

Chairman

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Support Network

Alzheimer's Disease Society

London SW1

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