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Saturday, 28 October, 2000, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Pledge on health warning review
Cow with BSE
The full extent of the CJD epidemic is not yet known
A thorough review of health warning procedures has been promised by Scotland's rural affairs minister Ross Finnie.

His pledge came in the light of the Phillips Report into the BSE crisis, which was published on Thursday.

And his comments come amid fears that the human form of the BSE infection could be more widespread than first thought.

Those concerns followed confirmation that a 74-year-old man has become the latest victim.

Mr Finnie commented on Lord Phillips' report into the handling of the BSE affair on BBC Radio Scotland's Newsweek programme.

We should be under no illusions at all that where there are any pointers that mean that we have to change or improve our practice in terms of how we deal with scientific advice and all of that, we have to take that on board

Ross Finnie, rural affairs minister
The report said that Conservative ministers and their officials repeatedly misled the public about the threat to human health posed by mad cow disease.

It said the crisis had been made worse by an over-riding desire to avoid a health scare, poor communication between government departments, and bureaucratic delays in responding to scientific warnings about the risks.

"We really do need to read this report very carefully indeed," said Mr Finnie.

"We should be under no illusions at all that where there are any pointers that mean that we have to change or improve our practice in terms of how we deal with scientific advice and all of that, we have to take that on board.

"There then has to be a very public debate about exactly what it is we are doing, but I think the first step is that we have to get through the very voluminous report."

Mr Finnie said the Scottish Executive had to be able to state very clearly which practices the Phillips report had criticised, then be clear and open about the steps which had been taken to deal with them.

Disease confirmed

"Even the establishment of the Food Standards Agency is quite a major step forward," he added.

The latest BSE fears emerged after scientists from the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh confirmed that a 74-year-old man had been suffering from the disease.

He died last year and is believed to have been from North Yorkshire.

Until now, all the known victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) - the human form of "mad cow" disease - have been aged between 12 and 55.

Elderly people
There are fears about the spread of the disease
The death has triggered questions over whether a larger section of society than initially thought could be vulnerable to the disease.

The disease was not diagnosed before the man's death, and there is growing concern that other cases of vCJD among the elderly may be going undetected.

The symptoms of vCJD are similar to those of dementia, and the post mortem tissue analysis required to diagnose CJD has not been carried out with elderly people.

His death takes the number of confirmed cases of the disease to 85.

Next week, Health Secretary Alan Milburn will meet victims' families to discuss compensation packages.

He will also announce a 1m payment to the surveillance unit in Edinburgh, to "kickstart" a national fund for the care of victims.

This will pay for equipment and care packages for patients, with a new national network of experts across the country to support health and social workers caring for sufferers.

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See also:

26 Oct 00 | Health
1m care package for vCJD victims
02 Oct 00 | Scotland
BSE crisis sparks father's anger
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