Further suspected case of foot and mouth disease

British officials said on Friday they were investigating a further suspected case of foot and mouth disease outside a 10-km (6-mile) surveillance zone, raising fears the contagious cattle illness could be spreading.

Further suspected case of foot and mouth disease

British officials said on Friday they were investigating a further suspected case of foot and mouth disease outside a 10-km (6-mile) surveillance zone, raising fears the contagious cattle illness could be spreading.

Debby Reynolds, the country's chief veterinarian, said there were "clinical suspicions" of a further foot and mouth infection but emphasised that the indications were mild and that tests had not yet been carried out.

However, the suspected infection is in cattle on a farm outside the already established area of the outbreak, first identified last Friday, indicating that rather than being contained, as first hoped, the disease may be catching.

"I reiterate my message to animal keepers to practice the highest standards of bio-security, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions quickly," Reynolds said.

British abattoirs had resumed the slaughter of animals on Thursday after the government lifted a five-day ban on the movement of livestock for slaughter, an indication that experts thought they might have got over the worst of the outbreak.

That was despite the fact that a third herd of cattle suspected of infection was identified inside the surveillance zone on Wednesday and immediately culled. Tests to confirm the infection in those cattle are still being carried out.

In total, 576 head of cattle have been culled as a result of the outbreak, which has so far been focused in Surrey, a county southwest of London.

Following the outbreak, the first in Britain since 2001, when it devastated farming, leading to the slaughter of more than 6 million animals, the European Union banned all British imports of livestock, meat and dairy products.

The EU is not expected to review its policy until Aug. 23.

Britain's livestock industry has annual meat exports worth more than $1 billion and a long export ban would hit it hard.

Abattoir workers said lifting the movement ban had caused chaos, with a huge backlog of animals being brought in for slaughter.

"The animals can be moved direct from farm to slaughterhouse, we're getting that bit done all right, but the rest of it is all backed up," said Roger Carr, owner of the Simply Halal abattoir near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

"It's chaos. We can't move the skins, we can't move the green offal (the intestine and stomach of cows), we can't move the effluent."
Inspections

As well as trying to contain the spread of the disease, which affects cloven-hoofed animals, health inspectors are trying to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.

Suspicion has focused on Pirbright, a research site about 5 miles (8 km) from where the cattle were infected. This houses two foot and mouth laboratories — one the government-run Institute for Animal Health and the other operated by Merial, a private US-French animal vaccine manufacturer.

Both laboratories handle various strains of foot and mouth virus, including the uncommon strain infecting the cattle.

Both laboratories have said they follow the strictest bio-security measures and there is still no hard evidence that the virus somehow leaked from either of their laboratories.

However, government inspectors have said there is a "strong probability" the disease originated at Pirbright.

The National Farmers' Union, which represents farmers nationwide, has retained lawyers in case it is found the spread of the disease was caused by negligence or human activity.

"This (preliminary legal) work will involve taking advice on potential grounds for a legal claim in the event that it is confirmed that the foot and mouth virus came from one of the sites at Pirbright," it said in a statement.

Reuters

Last Mod: 10 Ağustos 2007, 13:04
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