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vCJD: health risks and health scares

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 17 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1194
  1. Alex Vass (
  1. BMJ

    Panorama: “Coming Clean,” BBC 1, 11 November at 10 15 pm

    What a programme making dream this must have been for the Panorama crew. It featured a fatal disease, a government scientist turned whistleblower, a buried report, and a set of surgical instruments locked in a hospital attic.

    The disease was variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an illness with a complex and turbulent history, and now thought to be transmissible through the reuse of contaminated surgical instruments. The whistleblower was the government microbiologist Dr David Hurrell, who audited the country's surgical equipment cleaning procedures, and told all to Panorama. The buried report showed that there were “serious flaws” and “barely adequate” procedures in most hospitals. When NHS executives received the report, it was suddenly classified as “strictly confidential,” and Dr Hurrell was told to destroy all copies. The surgical instruments locked in a Nuneaton hospital attic were used on a patient who then developed …

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