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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Fight to combat virus cluster
Cattle being rounded up on a farm near Allendale and Catton in Northumberland
Widespread restrictions have been imposed on farms
Strict quarantine measures have been put in place in Northumberland in an effort to control the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Thousands of animals are being slaughtered in a 400sq mile area after the number of cases in the area rose to 12 in four days.

Scottish farmers are worried the infection could be carried over the border just as they are hoping to resume their export trade after nearly three months free of the virus.

Livestock at four farms in the Scottish Borders are being kept under close observation for signs of the disease after a farmer from Hexham visited them 14 days ago.

Disease facts
Total: 1,987
New cases on Monday: 8
Slaughtered: 3,768,000
Awaiting slaughter: 11,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000
Local vets are monitoring the situation and carrying out tests on the animals.

In Northumberland, all the main approach roads to the affected area have permanent disinfecting stations by the roadside.

Every vehicle moving in and out of the area has its wheels and wheel arches sprayed by officials.

Click here to see map of the area

In the Allen valley, around the villages of Catton and Allendale, convoys of specially-modified trucks have taken away thousands of cattle and sheep culled on the affected farms or neighbouring properties.

Judith Hampson, the rector of Allendale, said the community feared for the future.

She told the BBC: "If this disease carries on till winter then I am afraid we just do not know what we will have to face."

Speed really is of the essence in this particular new outbreak

Professor Roy Anderson
Professor Roy Anderson, a government adviser on foot-and-mouth, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the "mini-epidemic" had to be stamped out quickly.

"The most important thing about this mini-epidemic is following the first, a very high fraction of the secondary cases have been in contiguous premises," he said.

"This highlights the need for a speedy action of the removal of the primary case within 24 hours and contiguous cull within 48 hours."

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.

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

Market fears

Strict controls have been imposed on the movement of livestock in the area, including a ban on animal movements within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of the affected farms.

Police and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials will also patrol to ensure that no animals are being moved illegally.

The outbreak started to emerge within a five-mile area around Hexham on Thursday.

It is not surprising that once the disease entered the area, several cases have occurred

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

The Defra Minister, Lord Whitty, said the outbreak was "very worrying".

"The situation in Northumberland is now our number one priority, and in line with that we have imposed a "Blue Box" of the strictest controls on movements and compulsory disinfection that should stamp down on the disease in that area."

Detective story

Divisional veterinary manager Arthur Griffiths ruled out suggestions the disease could have been spread through Hexham market and stressed that no animals had been taken there and then returned to farms.

"We are still looking for the source - but are not looking at Hexham market.

"It is very much like a CID operation where you get information coming in and you investigate it.

"It really is a detective story."

Mr Griffiths said he could not rule out the possibility of more cases to come.

Click here to return

The BBC's Sean Brickell
"More roads and footpaths are being closed again"
David Smith, local farmer
"It took us all by surprise"
The BBC's Tom Heap
"There appear to be two current theories [for this outbreak]"
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