A YOUNG Fordingbridge woman is campaigning to have all donated blood screened for the human form of mad cow disease after her grandmother, a keen blood donor, died from the disease.
Lisa Farrant’s grandmother, Audrey Cook, died in 2007 at the age of 72 from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).
Miss Farrant, 22, said her grandmother had become unwell during Christmas 2006 with flu like symptoms and deteriorated rapidly until her death, just six months later.
“She became quadriplegic and we think she was blind and deaf because she showed no reactions to anything in front of her,” explained Lisa.
“She was unable to smile and could not talk to you. This was in April/May, so within four months she was unable to communicate and didn’t recognise me.”
Mrs Cook’s illness was not diagnosed while she was alive and Alzheimer’s Disease was entered as the cause of death on her death certificate, before her family asked for a post mortem, which revealed vCJD.
Lisa blames mechanically recovered meat, which she claimed was often used in meals served at schools in the 1980s, when her grandmother was a school cook.
“If we hadn’t pushed it we wouldn’t have known. It just makes me wonder how many cases of it have gone unnoticed.
“I think it’s really impossible to find out how many people are carrying it.
“CJD is not tested for when they screen blood donors.
“It’s not very well known round here and I don’t think people are aware of it.
A spokesman for the National Blood Service said there is no approved test at the moment for donated blood, but there are some going through the evaluation system at the moment.
“The tests are not approved for use yet. They need to be evaluated to make sure they are effective and that they do detect what they should and nothing else,” she said.
Lisa has joined forces with Portsmouth mother Christine Lord who lost her 24 year-old son Andrew Black to the disease in December 2007.
Christine Lord also wants all post-mortems to include a check for vCJD, so the extent of the disease is known and measures can be put in place to stop its spread via blood donations and medical procedures.
Lisa said: “We are campaigning for coroners to undertake mandatory tests of spleens and tonsils. That is where the prions (small proteins causing the disease) collect.
“My grandma had white spots on her tonsils for a long time so we think she had it for many years. She also had a lot of sore throats.”
Lisa said her grandmother had given blood twice a year since the 1960s and she was worried that many people could now be infected. For more information on the campaign visit www.justice4andy.com:80.
Lisa has also set up a Facebook page called Support research into CJD.