Butchering Likely To Blame

Jerry Falwell Gravely Ill Dr. Jerry Falwell gestures while speaking at the Justice Sunday III rally on January 8, 2006 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sponsored by the Family Research Council, the rally was held one day before the start of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. GETTY

What put the quaint and leafy village of Queniborough on the map was a pattern of fatal illness: a cluster of five cases of the human form of mad cow disease, called variant CJD. The youngest victim was 17, the oldest 34.

Pamela Beyless was right in the middle: 24 years old when she died from the sickness that destroyed her brain and nervous system, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth.

But exactly how she got it, says Pamela's father, has been a mystery. "We know obviously they caught it from cattle — but what we don't know is the bit in between: how they caught it," said Arthur Beyless.

The report released Wednesday in Queniborough rules out drinking water and school meals as a link among the small town's five victims — and concludes the probable cause was at the butcher's: a traditional method of butchering whole carcasses, now stopped, that could have allowed infected brain tissue to contaminate cuts of beef all the victims ate.

"What we cannot say is whether anybody else has been exposed. If other people have been exposed we cannot say whether they may or may not be incubating the disease," said Dr. Philip Monk of the Leicester England Health Authority.

As they learn more about how the disease may spread, British health authorities are implementing new precautions. In hospitals, for instance, routine tonsil surgery now must be done with disposable instruments.

But the government here insists Britain's meat supply is safe, because it says the meat industry, where the problem began, is now so tightly regulated.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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