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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Three await foot-and-mouth results
Pyres burning at South Arscott, Devon
Residents near burning pyres fear health problems
Three people are waiting to learn if they have contracted foot-and-mouth.

Health experts have confirmed they are investigating three separate suspected cases of the disease, amid calls to improve safety for slaughtermen culling animal carcasses.

This comes as the total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK reached 1,480 on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the government's chief scientific adviser said the number of cases being confirmed each day would have dwindled to a handful by 7 June - the likely date of the general election.

Health hazard

But Professor David King also told the Commons agriculture select committee that toxins emitted from burning carcasses posed a significant hazard to public health.

The government has already admitted that people living near burning pyres of slaughtered cattle could suffer health problems.

But a summit of UK tourism ministers meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday will discuss how to offset the negative impact of the continuing crisis on the industry.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,471 - 6 on Wednesday
2,061,000 animals have been slaughtered
178,000 animals awaiting slaughter

North Cumbria Health Authority has confirmed it is carrying out tests on Paul Stamper - a temporary contract worker who became ill while working on the livestock cull in Cumbria.

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

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

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

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.

Culling animals

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

He was in 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.

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.

Pyre risks

As the pyres continue to burn slaughtered animals the government has issued guidance about the health risks of this policy.

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 are advised to avoid sustained exposure, it added.

But people were not at risk from increased dioxin levels deposited from the burning carcasses of slaughtered cattle.

Meanwhile the summit of UK tourism ministers in Glasgow chaired by Scottish tourism minister Alasdair Morrison is expected to discuss calls for Chancellor Gordon Brown to plough extra resources into hotel and catering firms under pressure from the knock-on effects of foot-and-mouth.

And abroad the Prince of Wales has told a told a Canadian newspaper the Globe & Mail that the epidemic back home was an "appalling trauma" but that the cloud has a silver lining because it has brought people together.

The Canadians are so concerned about foot-and-mouth that they recently turned back a British military ship over fears that mud on the wheels of vehicles on board could be harbouring the disease.

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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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