Scientists studying Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the field are still deeply divided about whether BSE can be transmitted to humans, and about the potentially terrifying consequences for the population.
"It's too late for adults, but children should not be fed beef. It is as simple as that," said Stephen Dealler, consultant medical microbiologist at Burnley General Hospital, who has studied the epidemic nature of BSE and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, since 1988.
He believes that the infectious agent would incubate in children and lead to an epidemic sometime in the next decade.
"Any epidemic in humans would start about 15 years after that in cattle, and about 250,000 BSE-infected cows were eaten in 1990. There could be an epidemic of this new form in the year 2005. These 10 cases were probably infected sometime before the BSE epidemic started."
His worst case scenario, assuming a high level of infection, would be 10 million people struck down by CJD by 2010. He thought it was now "too late" to assume the most optimistic scenario of only about 100 cases.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it is going to be much easier to hold alarmists accountable for wild scare-mongering predictions that prove to be absurd. Though, I suppose Paul Ehrlich still gets respect in some quarters despite being 0-for-every-prediction-he-has-ever-made, so maybe its too much to hope for accountability.