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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"I would put money on the rest of the people they're still testing to prove negative as well"
 real 56k

Friday, 27 April, 2001, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Slaughterman foot-and-mouth 'all clear'
Slaughtered cows
Contact with slaughtered cows may pose a slight risk
A Cumbrian slaughterman at the centre of fears over human foot-and-mouth is now believed not to have the infection.

While the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) has, for reasons of patient confidentiality, refused to reveal individual details, it says that two people tested for the illness have proved negative.

Several people were being tested last week for foot-and-mouth, but of these, Paul Stamper, a contract cull worker, was first in line to receive his results.

This means that eight of 13 suspected cases in the UK have received test results but no human cases of the disease have been confirmed.

Results in the remaining five cases are expected next week.

Rotting cow

Mr Stamper, from a village near Maryport in west Cumbria, was accidentally sprayed with material from a rotting cow carcass during a disposal operation.

Two weeks later he developed symptoms similar to those in animals - ulcers in the mouth, sore, itchy hands and a mild fever.

A spokesman for the PHLS said that all those whose tests had proved negative would be given follow-up checks for the presence of viral antibodies to foot-and-mouth.

But he added: "It is very unlikely that any of the eight people we have tested are human cases of [foot-and-mouth disease].

It is very unlikely that any of the eight people we have tested are human cases of FMD

Spokesman, Public Health Laboratory Testing
"But to exclude any possibility of infection antibody tests need to be conducted on blood samples."

Agriculture minister Nick Brown said he was "delighted" that tests were proving negative.

Only one case of human foot-and-mouth has ever been confirmed by viral testing in the UK, although approximately 40 cases have emerged worldwide.

Bobby Brewis contracted the disease in 1966 in Northumberland, possibly after drinking contaminated milk.

He suffered no long-term health problems subsequently.

The chances of transmission of the animal virus are said to be tiny - and this will be reinforced by the string of negative test results from the PHLS.

Even if the virus is passed on, the symptoms are relatively mild, and disappear within weeks.

Mr Stamper was previously thought the most likely candidate for infection, owing to his severe exposure to infected tissue from animals.

Health officials are keen to point out there exists a similarly named, but completely unrelated infection called hand, foot and mouth disease.

This causes similar symptoms of rash and fever, but is not connected in any way to animal foot-and-mouth disease.

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See also:

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