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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Disease cluster still growing
Slaughterman kills a cow at Bishopside Farm, Northumberland
Thousands of animals have been killed in the area
The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Northumberland is continuing to grow.

Thirteen cases have now been confirmed in six days in the Allen valley area around Hexham.

More than 1,000 animals have been slaughtered in the 400sq mile area around the farms affected.

Strict "blue box" 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.

Click here to see map of the area

Richard Ellison, northeast regional director for the National Farmers Union, told BBC News Online farmers in the area were "thoroughly depressed".

The return of the disease had been a crushing blow to their hopes of returning to normality, he said.

The area had been clear of the disease for nearly three months - the period after which farmers can re-apply for export licences.

"Markets start in a month and it's still going to be very restricted indeed, there's no way we're going to have a normal market. And that's going to be a welfare problem," he said.

He said it was not only the farmers with foot-and-mouth that were being damaged.

"The ones with the disease are OK, at least they'll get compensation," he said.


The people I'm worried about are the ones who haven't got it but can't do anything because of all the restrictions

Richard Ellison, NFU NE regional director
"The people I'm worried about are the ones who haven't got it but can't do anything because of all the restrictions. They just can't function. They're often the forgotten victims in all of this."

Northumberland County Councillor Peter Hillman said the outbreak was having a "devastating" effect on the entire local economy, including tourist and service businesses.

"Businesses within farming communities are being hit and being hit hard," he said.

Market closed

Vets are still trying to trace the source of the disease, which started to emerge within a five-mile area around Hexham on Thursday.

Hexham market has been closed as a precaution, although reports that it was the source of the infection have been ruled out.

Vets say it was either from latent disease among sheep which had not previously been picked up, or new disease carried into the area.

There are fears the disease could have spread before it was discovered.

Scotland has sealed off seven farms after a farmer from Northumberland visited a Scottish farm.

Farming minister Lord Whitty is to visit Northumberland on Friday to assess the latest outbreak for himself.

On Tuesday he said the cluster was a "serious situation" and a "setback".

"We've always said there would be a long tail to this disease...there will be sparks and places where the disease remains. (The outbreak in Northumberland) indicates that it could happen elsewhere," he said.

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 ON THIS STORY
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]"
See also:

28 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fears over foot-and-mouth contact
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