- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s latest foot-and-mouth outbreak is the same strain as last month’s, according to initial test results yesterday that gave farmers hope that the disease could be contained in a small region.

If the strain turns out to be different, Britain”s farmers — who are already reeling from the earlier outbreak as well as floods this summer — could lose more of their livestock.

In a larger outbreak in 2001, thousands of cattle, sheep and pig carcasses were burned on large pyres across the country. The farming industry lost millions in revenue.

A nationwide ban on the movement of livestock is in effect. The European Union has also suspended all imports of British beef and pork.

“The whole of England is back at a standstill. This is very bad news for the British farming industry,” Sally Shepherd, a farmer in Surrey, told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Restrictions on the cattle industry had only been lifted for five days when the latest case of foot-and-mouth was discovered in cattle grazing in the county of Surrey, about 10 miles from the laboratory that was linked to the August outbreak.

The government denied accusations that the country”s chief veterinarian, Debby Reynolds, was pressured by political and economic interests to lift restrictions early after the first outbreak of the disease.

“This was a decision that was made on the basis of scientific evidence,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown”s official spokesman, Michael Ellam, said.

The government said it waited 30 days after confirming the last known case of the disease before giving the all clear.

Foot-and-mouth disease, sometimes referred to as hoof-and-mouth disease, is a highly contagious virus that is harmless to humans but devastating to cattle, swine and other cloven-hooved animals.

The disease is not to be confused with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is a brain-destroying illness.

Foot-and-mouth has an incubation period of two to 14 days in animals. But it can survive for up to 50 days in water and can be transferred by tractors and other farm vehicles.

Some experts said the government should vaccinate animals to prevent the spread, not simply rely on slaughter.

“You attempted to control this by slaughter policy alone; it clearly has failed,” said Robin Maynard, a spokesman for the Soil Association, an independent group that certifies organic farms.

But if the government decides to vaccinate the animals, it would take longer to resume crucial meat exports to the European Union.

The government set up a six-mile containment zone around the farm near Egham that includes Heathrow Airport and Queen Elizabeth II”s Windsor Castle. Egham is 25 miles southwest of London.

The August outbreak was centered near the government-funded Institute for Animal Health, a diagnostic laboratory, and vaccine maker Merial Animal Health, a British unit of the U.S.-French pharmaceutical firm Merial Ltd.

The government imposed a nationwide ban on all livestock movement and ordered the slaughter of 300 cattle and pigs in the affected area, Ms. Reynolds said.

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