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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Vets tackle farm disease cluster
Vehicles being sprayed with disinfectant
Vehicles are sprayed with disinfectant to prevent disease spread
Government vets are to inspect farms in Northumberland following the outbreak of 11 cases of foot-and-mouth disease in four days.

Widespread restrictions have been imposed on farms in the area - which had been free of the disease for nearly three months.

Two cases confirmed on Monday are on farms near to one of those already infected, and a further two are in the Allendale valley.

Vets hope the tough new restrictions in an area covering more than 400sq miles will stop more farms from becoming infected.

We're right back onto the horns of the disease

Malcolm Corbitt NFU

Another case of foot-and-mouth identified in Northumberland on Saturday has now been reclassified as being two cases, bringing the total in the area to 11.

National Sheep Association chairman David Smith, who runs a farm within the affected area, said farmers were "most alarmed" by the latest outbreak.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Everybody is aware that the infection is still out there, and yet it seems to have caught us out once again. We wonder how far the disease has spread."

Mark Woolhouse, professor of epidemiology at Edinburgh University said the nature of the outbreak could make it "potentially quite serious".

"We need prompt action imposing movement restrictions, good surveillance, rapid reporting, rapid culling and an active continuous culling programme," he told Today.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has described the mood among its members as "deeply depressed".

Malcolm Corbitt, from the NFU in Northumberland, said it was a shock for farmers who thought they were moving away from the disease.

"We had good reason to believe that in a month's time we would have foot-and-mouth free status and as of Thursday morning we were back right onto the horns of the disease and back to where we were on the 20 February."

'Disastrous scenario'

"It's a disastrous scenario up here."

Government vets will spend 10 days inspecting farms within a 10-mile radius of the latest outbreak.

Strict controls have been imposed on the movement of livestock in the area and public footpaths have also been closed.

The latest cases have sparked fears that the infection has spread to other farms.

Up to 8,000 livestock may have to be slaughtered following the outbreak, which started to emerge within a five-mile area around Hexham on Thursday.

Click here to see map of the area

The NFU's 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."

Disease facts
Total: 1,987
New cases on Monday: 8
Slaughtered: 3,768,000
Awaiting slaughter: 11,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000

Two farmers involved in the cases confirmed this weekend bought animals from Hexham market, which has now been closed as a precaution.

"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.

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.

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.

Police patrols

He said the news was bitterly disappointing and stressed it was important for people "to make sure that they strictly follow the bio-security arrangements".

Nine disinfecting stations with police patrols are now operational.

Meanwhile there were also three new cases of the disease in Cumbria on Sunday, bringing the total number in the UK to 1,979.

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

Click here to return

The BBC's John Thorne in Northumberland
"The foot-and-mouth virus is still spreading"
Gordon Meek of the NFU
"Numbers are growing all the time, sadly"
David Smith, farmer in restricted area
and Keith Raine, Defra
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