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Human mad cow disease rising - or is it?

British experts try to have it both ways in the prediction of the trends in variant CJD.

Robert Walgate(walgate@scienceanalysed.com)

LONDON 19 July (Science Analysed) The number of British cases of variant Creutzveld–Jakob Disease (vCJD) — the human form of mad cow disease — "now indicates a statistically significant rising trend of around 20–30% per annum." So concluded a meeting on 17 July of the UK Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC).

According to a brief committee statement there have now been 76 "definite" and "probable" cases since the beginning of the epidemic, including seven "probable" cases still alive. But despite the Committee's calculation of a 20–30% annual rate of rise it concluded it was "too early to assess the extent of this trend over the coming years, or forecast accurately the ultimate size of the vCJD epidemic," thus somewhat negating the significance of its own estimate.

A full summary of the Committee's conclusions is to be made available on 1 August, SEAC says.

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