- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2007

LONDON (AP) — Restrictions placed around a British farm and zoo were lifted today after tests for foot-and-mouth disease came back negative, the government said.

The government lifted the two temporary control zones, imposed in Kent and Surrey, in southern England, removing restrictions on the movement of animals there, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs said.

“The final results have come back and they’ve proven to be negative,” a DEFRA spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. She added that vaccination teams were being taken off emergency status.

The original control zone established around the two farms where the infection was first discovered, in the county of Surrey, will remain until the investigation into the origin of the outbreak was complete, the spokeswoman said.

DEFRA said an epidemiology report on the outbreak published Wednesday “concludes that the risk of disease spread outside of the Surrey protection and surveillance zones is now very low.” The government had previously said the risk was “low, but not negligible.”

Yesterday, DEFRA set up 2-mile protection zones around a farm in southeast England and Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo, a tourist attraction southwest of London.

The suspected cases raised fears the highly contagious disease may have spread beyond an initial outbreak in Surrey.

Both new sites were outside the protection zone and the 10-mile radius surveillance zone set up around the original outbreak.

Confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth have so far not spread beyond a small area about 30 miles southwest of London. An epidemic of the disease in 2001 led to the slaughter of 7 million animals and shut British meat out of world markets for months.

An investigation has concluded that the disease probably spread by human movement from a research laboratory facility in Pirbright, Surrey. The complex houses vaccine-maker Merial Animal Health — the British arm of U.S.-French pharmaceutical firm Merial Ltd. — and the government’s Institute of Animal Health.

Animals on two farms near the lab tested positive for foot-and-mouth and were slaughtered.

Experts are still trying to determine exactly how the disease spread. The disease can be carried by wind and on the vehicles and clothes of people who have contact with infected animals.

Several countries have banned imports of British livestock and Britain has voluntarily suspended exports of livestock, meat and milk products since the outbreak was identified Aug. 3.

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