- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) A suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been discovered at a farm in Yorkshire in northern England, Britain's Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.
The announcement came a little more than a month after the British government declared that it had eradicated the highly contagious illness, which affects cows, sheep, pigs and horses, but not humans.
The disease is not to be confused with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
In what it says was a precautionary measure, the ministry banned livestock transports within five miles of the affected farm in Hawnby near York.
The move came after blisters were discovered in the mouths of two sheep during an inspection.
The animals were slaughtered, and the ministry has ordered the carcasses to be tested, the results of which will be known within 96 hours, the ministry said.
The farm, which saw much of its livestock killed during the foot-and-mouth outbreak last year, has been quarantined. The disease is also referred to as "hoof-and-mouth."
Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley warned that it was "too early to say if this will be the first case of the disease since last September."
The last case of foot-and-mouth was discovered in Britain on Sept. 30, and the government declared the country free of the disease in January.
"We must take no chances with this very infectious disease," Mr. Morley said.
"This suspect case underlines the need for farmers and vets to remain vigilant during the restocking period and during the lambing season, and to maintain high standards of bio-security," he said.
Britain was struck last year by the biggest foot-and-mouth epidemic the world has ever seen and the most serious animal-disease epidemic in the country in modern times.
The disease rapidly spread after the initial discovery of infected animals in northern England in February 2001.
Four million of Britain's 55 million livestock on more than 10,000 farms were slaughtered and burned in huge animal pyres.
Vast swaths of the countryside were closed off, costing farmers and the tourist industry billions of dollars in lost income. Thousands of farmers were put out of work.
The government had to call in the army to help manage the crisis, while Prime Minister Tony Blair postponed the date of the expected May general election until June.
The livestock virus led to what Ben Gill, the leader of Britain's National Farmers' Union, described as "a year of unparalleled suffering in the farming community."
Farmers have criticized the government for refusing to investigate the outbreak, accusing it of seeking to cover up mistakes and refusing to learn from past lessons.
Former Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who lost his post after the crisis, said last week that a repeat of the devastating outbreak was possible.
Mr. Brown and the main farming union have accused the government of failing to conduct border inspections that effectively keep out contaminated meat.
The 2001 outbreak is suspected of having been sparked by meat infected with foot-and-mouth brought in from overseas and fed to British animals.


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