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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"So the investigation to find the source goes on"
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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The worst case scenario is if this disease is already spreading"
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The BBC's Craig Swan
"It is a particularly virulent disease- it spreads extremely quickly"
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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 21:53 GMT
Crisis fears after British meat ban
Technical Manager of Cheale Meats, Mr John Harris
British farmers are bracing themselves for yet another industry crisis after the nation's first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease for 20 years.

The European Commission has banned all British milk, meat and livestock exports following the discovery of an outbreak at an abattoir near Brentwood, Essex, on Wednesday.

The commission says the situation required "reinforcing the control measures" already taken by Britain and would be reviewed on 27 February.

We are faced with what is potentially a very serious situation

Nick Brown
Five farms have been ringed by five-mile animal movement exclusion areas in an effort to restrict the disease to the abattoir.

The government said a total of 300 pigs and 60 cattle had been killed at the Cheale Meats slaughter house and an adjacent farm owned by the same family.

The other farms include one in Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire, one in Freshwater Bay in the Isle of Wight and another in Yorkshire after one of the infected pigs was discovered to have been delivered from a market in Selby.

Click here to see exclusion zone areas.

Restrictions were also placed around a farm near Stroud, Gloucestershire, following another "suspected" outbreak.

Officials said none of the animals involved had been imported into Britain.

Chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore said investigators were working tirelessly to identify where the disease started.

Infected farms will have to slaughter livestock
Although foot-and-mouth can be passed from farm to farm through the air, there is also the possibility the animals caught the disease from one of the transporters used to make deliveries to the Essex abattoir.

Mr Scudamore said the strain of the disease had been identified "type O", with tests suggesting it is similar to the strain which caused outbreaks in Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Russia.

The United States, Ireland, and South Korea also banned pig imports from Britain.

Full compensation

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said extra resources were being deployed to act swiftly against the outbreak.

He said all farmers who had no choice but to slaughter livestock affected by the disease would be compensated at the full market value for each animal.

"I cannot promise that these measures will not be prolonged," he said.

The disease cannot be caught by humans eating meat or drinking pasteurised milk

Food Standards Agency
"I apologise if what we appear to be doing seems heavy handed but it is absolutely essential."

The National Farmers' Union said the temporary ban on exports could be disastrous for its members but that it was a "necessary evil" to control the disease.

Mike Sheldon, owner of the Great Horwood farm, said news of the disease was "devastating".

"We have had vets here throughout the day inspecting our pigs and so far they have said there are no symptoms of the disease among our animals," he said.

"Although I am delighted so far that the outbreak seems not to have originated here, it is devastating news for the abattoir in Essex and any pig farmers whose animals are suffering with the disease. I feel extremely sorry for them."

Transmission to humans

Paul Cheale, director of Cheale Meats where the outbreak was identified, said the abattoir was "co-operating fully" with MAFF.

The Food Standards Agency said the disease posed no threat to food safety and that the export ban was aimed at stamping out the spread of foot-and-mouth.

A spokesman said: "The veterinary advice we have received is that transmission to humans is extremely rare, but may be possible if they are in close physical contact with an infected animal.

"But the disease cannot be caught by humans eating meat or drinking pasteurised milk."

This is the latest blow to Britain's beleaguered farmers following last year's outbreak of swine fever, which led to the slaughter of 12,000 pigs and a temporary ban on the export of live pigs and pig semen.

Highly infectious

Foot-and-mouth is a highly infectious viral disease which can affect cattle, pigs, sheep and goats characterised by the development of blisters in the mouth causing increased salivation and lameness.

Death is not usual but animals cease gaining weight and production in dairy cattle falls.

The last major outbreak in Britain was in 1967, while the most recent outbreak in the EU took place in Greece last year.

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