§ Yvette Cooper
We are currently aware of four confirmed cases and one probable case of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) having occurred in Leicestershire. This compares with 75 known confirmed and probable cases of vCJD throughout the United Kingdom. Statistical experts advise it is unlikely that the higher number of cases in Leicestershire will have occurred by chance.
A locally based investigation is now under way to look into the circumstances of this apparent cluster. To that end, the Department, through its Regional Office of the National Health Service Executive, will be working closely with the Local Health Authority and its Public Health Department as well as with experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the National CJD Surveillance Unit, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre of the Public Health Laboratory Service.
It is important to recognise that the cases we have identified will have been exposed to the infective agent many years ago. Control measures to protect public health from risk of exposure to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy have been in place for many years and progressively strengthened over recent years, and the Government will continue to take whatever steps the experts recommend. The Food Standards Agency stands ready to assist with the investigation as necessary and will in particular wish to be satisfied that no new factor is involved in these cases which requires further action to ensure the safety of food.