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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Foot-and-mouth 'tail' fears
Sheep and lambs
The Devon outbreak was in a previously unaffected area
A fresh outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Devon has raised fears the "tail" of the disease in the UK could be longer than expected.

The 169th confirmed case in the county was called "disappointing and worrying" by the National Farmers' Union.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,736 - four on 12 June
3,281,000 animals slaughtered
8,125 premises with animals slaughtered or earmarked for slaughter
The outbreak was confirmed at Crosses Farm at Clayhanger, near the Somerset border, by officials from the newly-formed Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

NFU south-west regional director Anthony Gibson said it was in an area where there had been no previous disease, and where none was expected.

There was no obvious connection with any other outbreak, although there was an unproven theory that the disease might have been caught by the cattle from sheep, in which it was dormant.

A total of 80 cattle were slaughtered on Monday night, and 370 sheep were being killed on Tuesday.

Livestock at seven contiguous premises were also being slaughtered on Tuesday.

The latest case followed an outbreak on 9 June at Chulmleigh, Devon, about 30 miles to the west.

Experts say they are worried by such isolated outbreaks of the disease where none had been expected.

Dr Tony Andrews, an independent veterinary expert, said: "If the contiguous cull has gone well, if all the other culling has gone well, then one should find only a very limited number of flocks affected.

"If this is not the case this looks very bad for the future.

"If we also find infection in herds and flocks which are away from these areas then one can see that the outbreak will continue, and continue on to the end of the year at least."

Public inquiry

Blood testing is currently being carried out on samples from hundreds of animals on behalf of the government by the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, Surrey.

The tests are to help create a picture of the disease, and to try to work out how long the culling policy will take to root it out.

BBC correspondent Gillian Hargreaves says if early evidence from the tests is anything to go by, the tail of the outbreak could be far longer than everyone had hoped.

"The evidence is that the virus is being detected in greater intensity and numbers than first thought - often in sheep where the physical symptoms have been missed," she said.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said the government should hold a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

"Instead of eradicating the ministers who bungled the foot-and-mouth crisis, Tony Blair should concentrate on eradicating the disease," he said.

"Labour has shoved aside the guilty team just when worrying new outbreaks of the disease have been reported."

He called for a "new risk assessment in all the infected and neighbouring areas".

Only then could the countryside "be reassured that this unsolved problem is not being swept under the carpet by ministers."

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