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The BBC's Rachel Ellison
"There are no risk-free solutions to dealing with the virus"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"They're going to be taking tankers full of liquid seeping from these pits for the next 10 years"
 real 56k

Prof Brian Duerden of the Public Health Laboratory
"It may just be that interest has been raised amongst doctors"
 real 56k

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Pat Troop
"It has never been recorded going from human to human"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Fears of more human foot-and-mouth
Cull
The first suspected case was involved in culling animals
Two more suspected cases of human foot-and-mouth disease are being investigated by health experts.

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) confirmed on Tuesday that it was examining two cases in addition to the one uncovered by the BBC yesterday.


There are a lot of symptoms that can seem similar to foot-and-mouth and the case yesterday has obviously raised concerns

Public Health Laboratory Service
On Monday North Cumbria Health Authority confirmed it was carrying out tests on temporary contract worker Paul Stamper who became ill while working on the livestock cull in Cumbria.

The two new cases are not from the same area, but no specific details are yet available.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Man TT races have become the latest sporting event to be cancelled because of the virus.

By Tuesday the total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK had reached 1,456.

The government also admitted on Tuesday that people living near burning pyres of slaughtered cattle could suffer health problems.

Tests

Tests on six other suspected cases of human foot-and-mouth previously carried out by the PHLS during the current foot-and-mouth outbreak proved negative.

A disease with similar symptoms known as hand, foot and mouth disease, but caused by a completely different virus, is much more common among humans.

A PHLS spokesman said: "Two more cases have been referred to us and we are investigating them.

"There are a lot of symptoms that can seem similar to foot-and-mouth and the case yesterday has obviously raised concerns."

The results of tests on Mr Stamper are expected within the next week.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,465 - 13 on Tuesday
1,974,000 animals have been slaughtered
232,000 animals awaiting slaughter
If foot-and-mouth is confirmed, he will become only the second person in the UK ever to be known to have contracted the disease. At present, he is resting at home.

The previous victim was agricultural salesman Robert Brewis, from Northumberland, who contracted the disease in 1966.

Mr Stamper, from west Cumbria, was employed by Maff to assist with the culling of animals.

He had been heavily involved in the culling operation currently underway in the region, and as such was in regular, close contact with infected animals.

Dr Peter Tiplady, of North Cumbria Health Authority, said: "The man was accidentally sprayed with some material from a cow, and two weeks later developed symptoms similar to that in the animals - ulcers in the mouth and sore, itchy hands.

"It is not a very serious illness. He is not at all unwell, and we expect him to make a complete recovery."

Public not at risk

Scientific advice is that it is highly improbable for the virus to pass from animals into the human population under any other circumstances, so the general population is not at risk.

Angus Nichol, director of the communicable diseases surveillance unit of the Public Health Laboratory Service, said: "Basically this is an animal virus - it doesn't like human beings.

"If you expose someone to massive amounts of the virus, they may get the disease, but they probably won't."

He said that when humans did contract foot-and-mouth, it was a very mild illness for them, which invariably cleared up within a matter of weeks.

Guidance

The government has issued guidance about the health risks of burning slaughtered animals en masse.

It said that exposure to the smoke from the pyres can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, and that people less than half a kilometre from even small pyres may be exposed to high concentrations of irritants such as sulphur dioxide.

People living close to the pyres should be advised to avoid sustained exposure, it added.

However, it said people were not at risk from increased dioxin levels deposited from the burning carcasses of slaughtered cattle.

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Health
Human 'may have foot-and-mouth'
23 Apr 01 | Health
'A mild and transient disease'
23 Apr 01 | Health
Human foot-and-mouth: The history
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