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SCMP Thursday, November 23, 2000

Beef sales plummet on mad cow scare


Last updated at 7.33pm:
The Department of Health on Thursday denied that the death of a construction worker last month was due to mad cow disease, after fears of an outbreak led beef sales to plummet.
Panic erupted when a local Chinese newspaper reported that Ng Chun-ling, 45, died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, printing a copy of his death certificate as proof.
The effect of the health scare was especially felt by butchers, who reported beef sales down 30 per cent to local television reporters.
But health authorities said Ng died of the classic form of the disease, a rare degenerative brain disease which afflicts one in a million people and is caused by a genetic predisposition.
It is another form, the variant form, of Creutzfeldt-Jakob that is contracted from cows afflicted with mad cow disease.
Two more patients are currently being treated for the disease in hospital, according to a Hospital Authority spokesman. From April 1996 to now, there have been 18 reported cases of the disease.
The Department of Health said in a statement that the disease was not linked to beef consumption, but the news came too late for some meat vendors.
One butcher said her sales had already suffered as a result of the scare and that she was tired of the series of health scares affecting meat sales this year, citing the pork and chicken scares that struck the territory in recent months.