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banner Friday, 7 September, 2001, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
Fresh calls for farm virus vaccination
Slaughtered livestock PA
Nearly four million animals have been killed so far
A leading expert in foot-and-mouth disease has added his weight to calls to vaccinate animals in the UK against the virus.

Professor Fred Brown, who helped the government tackle the last serious outbreak of the disease in 1967, will back the move in a speech at the British Association Science Festival in Glasgow.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 2,006
Animals slaughtered: 3,825,000
Awaiting slaughter: 11,636
At Friday's foot-and-mouth, session Professor Brown, visiting scientist at the Plum Island laboratories, the US Animal Health Institute, will say the epidemic is out of control.

He believes the time to vaccinate is now because the virus will become more virulent as temperatures drop.

Scientists believe that in the hot summer, the virus that spreads the disease dries up within a few days. But in colder weather, it can stay infectious for weeks or even months.

Professor Brown told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that falling numbers of new cases were an opportunity for vaccination.

Virus load

He said: "Vaccination does work - just look at the record when they vaccinated in Europe. The number of outbreaks has dropped dramatically.

Disinfectant is sprayed on the road PA
Professor King would not recommend vaccination in Northumberland
"It would cut down the virus load. Even if a vaccinated animal became infected the amount of virus produced would be much, much lower and there would be less virus to disseminate."

Professor Brown said there were tests to distinguish animals with the disease from those that had been vaccinated.

He said: "I would have gone for it just as soon as it was clear that the disease was not under control.

Temperature sensitive

"Division has been based on the trading stance that vaccinated animals are not acceptable. It is about economics; it isn't about disease control."

Vaccination does work - just look at the record when they vaccinated in Europe. The number of outbreaks has dropped dramatically

Professor Fred Brown
But the UK Government's chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, believes the current virus is not so temperature sensitive.

He believes the current epidemic is nearly beaten and vaccination could be counter productive.

Professor Brown is one of the world's most experienced and respected foot-and-mouth experts and has worked on the disease since 1955.

During the UK's previous outbreak in 1967, he was deputy head at the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright, where reserves of vaccines against foot-and-mouth are stored.

Blamed farmers

But Professor Brown believes the government has not learned from the past and is more concerned about the animal export market than controlling the disease.

On Thursday, Professor King blamed farmers for preventing a vaccination plan in April, which he said could possibly have halted the disease in Cumbria, one of the worst-hit areas.

And on Wednesday, the Institute of Directors accused the government of mishandling the crisis by failing to implement vaccination.

It said vaccination could have lessened the ferocity of the disease and thus the knock-on effect on other businesses.

The argument over vaccination has rumbled on in the UK almost since the first confirmed case of the disease in February.

Supporters say it could be used as a replacement or additional weapon to the culling policy. But farmers say vaccinated animals can still carry the virus and pass it on, without showing any symptoms - so jabs could worsen the outbreak in the long run.

Farmers are also concerned about damage to the export trade as many countries, such as the US, will not allow imports of vaccinated meat and livestock.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The government doesn't seem inclined to pursue vaccination"
Prof Fred Brown
"Vaccination does work"
Tim Yeo, Shadow agriculture minister
"There's still some confusion in people's minds"
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