Science Questions

Sat, 13th May 2006

Part of the show BSE, Cervical Cancer and Toxoplasmosis


Mike in Moulden asked:

Have we got a time bomb in the population with mad cow disease?


I don't think so. The number of cases of this new form of CJD rose to a peak of 28 cases in the year 2000. Last year there were five. It looks very much that far from being a time bomb, numbers are dropping and the disease is under control. That's what I would say. When the first cases appeared in the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996, nobody knew what the incubation period was. We knew that the maximum exposure of people to contaminated beef was around 1990 and so some people said that if there's a 20 year incubation period, then these first cases in 1996 might expand to hundreds of thousands of cases in 20 years time. Nobody could be sure that that wasn't right. It turned out that the incubation period is about ten years, BSE transmits very inefficiently to people and the maximum of 28 people in 2000 was the maximum. Now it's going steadily down.


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