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Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
New cases spark farm disease fears
Farmer rounds up his sheep for slaughter
Officials are frantically trying to halt the spread
Three more cases of foot-and-mouth disease have been confirmed in Northumberland sparking fears the infection has spread to other farms.

The new cases, which bring the total number in the area to six, were within the zone where the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now imposed tight controls.

We fear there are going to be more, it's showing that sort of pattern

Richard Ellison, NFU North East

A government vet has warned that up to 8,000 livestock may have to be slaughtered, after the cases started to emerge within a five-mile area around Hexham on Thursday.

Officials have described the latest outbreak as "a major setback" in the fight against foot-and-mouth.

Army on standby

An investigation is continuing into how many other farms could be facing culls as dangerous or contiguous contacts.

Footpaths in the area have been closed and the army is on standby to deal with any further cases.

Click here to see map of the area

"Draconian" restrictions have now been imposed around 550 farms in Northumberland.

The controls come as a huge blow to farmers who hoped restrictions would soon be lifted in the area, which had been disease-free for three months.

National Farmers' Union North East director Richard Ellison said: "We fear there are going to be more, it's showing that sort of pattern.

"It is not looking good. They have suspicions it has already reached other farms."

Mr Ellison said it was still not known how the virus spread.

"People are very concerned, everyone's on tenterhooks, and for the farmers involved the slaughters have begun. It's a very traumatic time," he said.

'Blue box' controls

Two farmers involved in the cases confirmed earlier this weekend were reported to have bought animals from the same market, which could mean infection has been transferred to more farms.

"Blue box" regulations are to be introduced around Stone Hall Farm near Catton, Taylor Burn Farm at Ninebanks near Allendale, and Nettle Hill Farm at Allendale.

Disease facts
Total: 1,977
New cases on Sunday: 4
Slaughtered: 3,780,000
Awaiting slaughter: 12,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000

The restrictions, used to control the outbreak in Thirsk, north Yorkshire, earlier this year, designate an area in which all animal movements are banned, apart from those licensed to be sent directly to slaughter.

The box is about 7kmē, roughly from Slaley in the east, Blanchland in the south, to Haltwhistle in the west, and Hexham and Haydon Bridge in the north.

Nine disinfecting stations with police patrols are now operational.

Officials have been meeting with police to discuss the idea of 24-hour patrols on the roads to enforce the security zone.

Twenty extra vets have been drafted in to inspect an estimated 130 additional farms to which the disease may have spread, within a 10km radius of the premises.

There was also another new case in Cumbria on Sunday, bringing the total cases in the UK to 1,974.

In the last few weeks Cumbria, one of the areas hit worst by the disease, has averaged two new cases a day.

'Not unexpected'

Divisional veterinary manager Arthur Griffiths said two of the three new cases in Northumberland were contiguous to the previous outbreaks and the third was on the edge of two of the three kilometre zones.
Car being hosed down in Taylor Burn Farm
Taylor Burn: First case in the north-east for 14 weeks

He added that while the new cases "were not to be entirely unexpected given the number of animals in this valley", the news was a major blow.

"We are of course bitterly disappointed at the news and cannot stress how important it is for people to make sure that they strictly follow the bio-security arrangements.

"This is however a major setback and reinforces the need for draconian measures to stop the spread of the disease."

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The BBC's Jon Brain in Northumberland
"Officials battle to contain the latest outbreaks"
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