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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
German disease fears grow
German police seal off a farm where foot-and-mouth disease was suspected
Concern is growing in Germany over contagion
German officials say a suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease has been discovered on a pig farm near the country's border with the Netherlands.

"There is a high degree of suspicion," a government spokesman said after vets had carried out checks at the farm in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Around 100 piglets have been slaughtered as a precaution, and environment officials said results from blood tests on the animals were expected on Wednesday.

But in France - already hit by two cases - there was better news. The European Commission relaxed its ban on the export of meat and dairy produce, after no new cases had been reported since 23 March.

The ban - covering untreated meat and dairy produce - will now apply only to the Seine-et-Marne region east of Paris, where the most recent case was found, and to the neighbouring areas of Seine Saint-Denis and Val-D'Oise.

We may very well have to decide within a few days that we will have to kill tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of animals

Environment Minister Baerbel Hoehn
Germany has so far escaped the virus, but officials say the latest suspected case is the most worrying yet.

"We may very well have to decide within a few days that we will have to kill tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of animals," state Environment Minister Baerbel Hoehn told ZDF television.

The farm is in Horstmar, a village some 40km (25 miles) from the Dutch border.

Much of Germany's pig-rearing industry is situated just to the north of Horstmar in the neighbouring state of Lower Saxony.

The farm has been place under quarantine, with a 3km exclusion zone around it.

More than 100 pigs were slaughtered overnight as a precautionary measure.


It was not clear whether the farm had recently imported animals from the Netherlands, which has confirmed 12 cases since the middle of March.

Cases of the disease have been detected about 30km from the frontier with Germany.

Although Germany has had several scares, they have all so far proved to be false alarms.

At the weekend, a new alert was sounded after pigs at Goch, near the Dutch border, showed symptoms of the illness.

But tests on the animals, which had been imported from the Netherlands, proved negative.

Vaccination calls

German farmers are growing increasingly anxious that foot-and-mouth will reach their country sooner rather than later.

Lorry carrying slaughtered animals
The Dutch slaughter of infected herds is already under way
There have been demands for widespread vaccination rather than mass killing and burning of infected livestock.

On Monday, the Dutch and German agriculture ministers agreed that the Dutch would provide regular updates to German border states about the foot-and-mouth crisis in the Netherlands.

Until last week, Dutch officials had believed that their early crackdown on the movement of animals, coupled with a vaccination programme, had been enough to protect the country from the spread of foot-and-mouth.

The UK has not yet begun vaccination, with the government continuing to insist that its mass burning of slaughtered animals is the answer to the crisis.

The UK's total has passed 950 cases and is still rising daily.

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