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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 16:15 GMT
Europe in fear of UK farm virus
pigs
All recent British imports are being traced
Belgium and Ireland have closed livestock markets as a precaution against the spread of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain.

A spokesman for Belgium's agriculture ministry said there was a risk that infected farm animals from Britain may already have been exported.

He said efforts to trace all British livestock were underway across Belgium.

Similar measures were announced in France and Germany on Friday. All pigs, cows, sheep and goats imported from the UK in February are to be tracked down, under the emergency plan announced in Paris.

Ireland has imposed checkpoints at crossings from Northern Ireland, to enforce the ban on all livestock imports.

In other measures, it has

  • shut down livestock markets near the border
  • imposed tougher restrictions on the import of animal feed
  • ordered disinfection of racehorses at Fairyhouse racecourse, Co Meath
  • banned hunting

Ireland's agriculture minister, Joe Walsh, said the move was part of a "massive effort" to keep the disease out of the Republic.

In Germany, dozens of farms with livestock shipped from Britain had been placed under quarantine.

The highly-contagious virus affects pigs, sheep, cattle and goats and causes them to develop blisters on their feet and in their mouths.

Foot-and-mouth disease has previously been known to travel up to 250km (150 miles) if the right environmental conditions are in place.

Bans across the world

From the United States and Europe to Australia, Thailand and South Korea, officials have been banning the import of British livestock and animal products.

Many of the bans go beyond the voluntary export restrictions the UK has imposed on live animals, meat and dairy products since the disease was identified in England on Monday.

Foot-and-mouth disease, which can be fatal to animals, spreads easily through contact and airborne transmission.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Scotland
Foot-and-mouth tests at Scots farm
23 Feb 01 | Wales
Export hope for Welsh farmers
23 Feb 01 | Europe
French alert over foot-and-mouth
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Foot-and-mouth pandemic feared
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