Laboratory site 'probable source' of foot-and-mouth outbreak

British experts were Wednesday investigating the possibility that the foot-and-mouth outbreak at a farm in southern England was caused by sabotage linked to the nearby Pirbright laboratory site, it was revealed here.

Laboratory site 'probable source' of foot-and-mouth outbreak
British experts were Wednesday investigating the possibility that the foot-and-mouth outbreak at a farm in southern England was caused by sabotage linked to the nearby Pirbright laboratory site, it was revealed here.

A preliminary report by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published last night concluded that there were various potential routes for "accidental or deliberate transfer of material from the site." It said, "We have investigated site management systems and records and spoken to a number of employees. As a result we are pursuing lines of inquiry.

"Release by human movement must also be considered a real possibility. Further investigation of the above issues is required and is being urgently pursued."

Britain's Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has admitted the Government has to look at the possibility the outbreak in Surrey, near London, was the result of deliberate human contamination.

Speaking after the publication of the report, he said, "The truth is, we don't know. We're all very, very anxious." Benn has announced that the possibility the strain had been released by human movement would be investigated further as "a matter of urgency," and said he has asked for another report as soon as possible.

The minister said he had agreed a recommendation by the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds that footpaths in the original protection zone which covers the two infected farms, be closed with immediate effect.

More culling could also take place if there were clinical signs of the disease, Benn added.

He said that Reynolds had ordered a large amount of vaccine and that vaccination remained an option.

The HSE's preliminary findings said there was a "strong possibility" that the Pirbright laboratory facility was the source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

It did not specify whether the company "Merial Animal Health" or the UK Institute of Animal Health, both on the site, was responsible for the outbreak, and concluded the chances it was caused by flooding or aerial transmission were "negligible."

Meanwhile, the National Farmers' Union has said it was talking to lawyers about the possibility of a legal challenge for compensation.

Its president Peter Kendall told BBC TV, "It is important to understand that farmers who have lost livestock at the moment are only being compensated for the value of that stock, there's no (compensation for) consequential loss.

"If this turns out to be a commercial company, that has been and can be shown to have been careless in any way, my members are already very loudly saying, 'We've lost money, our businesses are no longer able to function, we've got animals, extra feed costs, problems with capacity being squeezed on farms'."

Asked whether claims would run into millions of pounds, Kendall replied, "Absolutely." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised yesterday that work was continuing to "isolate, to contain, control and eradicate the disease."

The first case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed last Friday.

A ban of the movement of all livestock is in place in England, Scotland and Wales.
Britain has imposed a ban on exports of all animals and animal products and the European Commission said it would ban live animal exports from the UK.
There have been fears that this latest outbreak could resemble the last one in 2001 which led to between 6.5 million and ten million animals being destroyed and cost the UK economy as much as 8.5 billion pounds.

Agencies
Last Mod: 08 Ağustos 2007, 16:23
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