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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
More disease outbreaks 'likely'
Slaughtered cattle lie in a field
Nearly four million animals have been killed so far
The government's chief scientific adviser has warned farmers to expect more outbreaks of foot-and-mouth like the recent case in Northumberland.

Professor David King said "one or two" similar clusters were likely as farmers fight the tail of the disease in the UK.

He said the Northumberland outbreak itself - which reached 19 cases on Wednesday - should be "snuffed out fairly quickly".

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 2,006
Animals slaughtered: 3,825,000
Awaiting slaughter: 11,636

And he blamed farmers for preventing a vaccination plan in the spring which he said could possibly have halted the disease in Cumbria, one of the worst-hit areas.

Professor King's comments came a day after a ban on moving animals was slapped on a huge area of northern England, following weeks where cases continued to be reported in the region.

The restriction covers 6,000 square miles of the north-east, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Vaccination argument

Professor King said government scientists were keeping vaccination under review, meeting once a week to try to model its impact.

But he said he would not recommend it in outbreaks such as Northumberland - sparked by an old case of the disease which had been incubating in the area for some time.

Disinfectant is sprayed on the road leading to Allendale and Catton
Professor King would not recommend vaccination in Northumberland
"Once the disease has become rampant in an area vaccination wouldn't stop it," he said.

Professor King said that in the spring he suggested to the Prime Minister a vaccination programme in Cumbria as a supplementary weapon to culling.

But he said he realised the plan would be pointless because he could not be certain all farmers would allow vets onto their premises to carry out the programme.

"I spoke at length to various members of the farmers' unions and... had to report back to the Prime Minister that we could not be sure of farmer co-operation on this," he told Today.

He added that he did not know whether the plan would have halted the outbreak anyway, had it been approved.

'Open mind'

On Wednesday the Institute of Directors accused the government of mishandling the crisis by failing to implement vaccination.

It said vaccination could have lessened the ferocity of the disease and thus the knock-on effect on other businesses.

Professor David King
Professor David King: Stumped by farmers
It claimed that the plan had been rejected by farmers concerned solely with their export trade.

The National Farmers' Union responded in a statement: "We did not support the limited use of vaccination in April when it was proposed for cattle in parts of Cumbria and Devon.

"This was because no-one could give any assurance that this would shorten the epidemic or reduce the number of animals to be slaughtered.

"We continue to stress that we will look with an open mind at whether vaccination may be used effectively in other circumstances."

Argument rumbles on

The argument over vaccination has rumbled on in the UK almost since the first confirmed case of the disease in February.

Supporters say it could be used as a replacement or additional weapon to the culling policy.

But farmers say vaccinated animals can still carry the virus and pass it on, without showing any symptoms - so jabs could worsen the outbreak in the long run.

Farmers are also concerned about damage to the export trade as many countries, such as the US, will not allow imports of vaccinated meat and livestock.

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