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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Humans given foot-and-mouth all-clear
Slaughtered cows
Four more people are being tested for foot-and-mouth
Fifteen people tested for foot-and-mouth have been given the all-clear while four more suspected cases are being investigated, the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) said.

The four samples are being tested and results should be available in about 48 hours.

Fears that people had contracted the extremely rare human form of foot-and-mouth added to the scare damaging foreign tourists' perception of the UK.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,529 - 7 on Tuesday
2,361,000 animals have been slaughtered
116,000 animals awaiting slaughter
As well as the negative tests, hard-hit British tourism has received a boost as it was announced parts of Dartmoor National Park, closed to walkers for 10 weeks because of foot-and-mouth, will soon re-open.

Footpaths and bridleways at five selected sites will re-open in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Carcass material

Fears humans could catch the disease, which produces flu-like symptoms and blisters on the mouth, grew after a Cumbrian slaughterman was thought to have contracted foot-and-mouth disease.

But last week, tests confirmed Paul Stamper, a contract cull worker, had not been infected with the disease.

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.

Cleared

When eight of the 15 previous cases were cleared last week, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said he was "delighted" that tests were proving negative.

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

Only one case of human foot-and-mouth has ever been confirmed by viral testing in the UK, although approximately 50 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.

Mild symptoms

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.

Humans need to be in direct contact with infected animals for the disease to be transmitted, say experts.

They say other diseases have similar symptoms to foot-and-mouth, and can easily be confused.

Humans can develop a similar, but completely unrelated condition, called hand, foot and mouth disease, which has 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
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