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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 20:28 GMT 21:28 UK
Father on daughter's vCJD death
A former Birmingham University student from Suffolk has died from the human form of mad cow disease.

Elizabeth Smith, 23, of St Margaret South Elmham, died on 4 October from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), three years after becoming ill.

Her father, Roger Smith, said she rarely ate burgers as a child.

Mr Smith is a friend of former minister John Gummer, who tried to show beef was safe by encouraging his young child to eat a burger in front of TV cameras.

It took so long to get diagnosed because the symptoms are so vague
Roger Smith, father

Her father, a former vicar, said: "If you live in the depths of the countryside, like Elizabeth did, there aren't burger bars everywhere so she hardly ate any.

"Sometimes she would have meat with a meal, sometimes she wouldn't. It wasn't one particular kind of meat, either.

"It may be nothing to do with beef burgers. If people knew precisely where the disease came from they would be able to stop it."

Mr Smith said his daughter first became ill in August 2004 and was diagnosed seven months later. She stayed at university until March 2005.

No 'certain test'

He said his daughter, who had studied geography, needed round-the-clock care as the disease took hold.

"It took so long to get diagnosed because the symptoms are so vague - it could have been various other things in the early stages. There's no blood test and no 100% certain test until after death.

"Initially the symptoms can be confused with depression. Elizabeth wasn't depressed but she had numbness in her face and we thought it was MS (multiple sclerosis).

She was more helpless for those last two years than when she was born
Roger Smith

"Then she started having short term memory loss but because her brain was young she was able to compensate, which is why she was able to carry on at university.

"However, by the time she came home she found that she had trouble swallowing and then couldn't swallow at all so for the last two-and-a-half years she was fitted with a gastro-tube.

"After that the disease was remorseless in the way that it killed her off.

"By August 2005 she was a very, very sick person. She was unable to walk for the last two years of her life and couldn't speak or smile.

"She had to be cared for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She was more helpless for those last two years than when she was born."

His wife Molly described Elizabeth as "clever, bright and intelligent".

She said: "She wanted to do primary school teaching and had a place on a post-graduate training course at Birmingham.

"She had a very active life and loved being outdoors. She was good at sports and enjoyed running."

Warning on vCJD blood screening
24 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Hopes for better vCJD diagnosis
05 Jul 07 |  Health

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