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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 12:44 GMT
Foot-and-mouth fears fade
Cows grazing in front of pyres, AP
A dairy cow was thought to have foot-and-mouth
Preliminary tests on a dairy cow thought to be the first animal infected with foot-and-mouth disease for more than a month have proved negative.

A government spokesman said blood and tissue samples taken from the animal showed no signs of the disease, but it will be a week before all checks are completed.

The animal was slaughtered at a farm near Rookhope, County Durham, after lesions were found in its mouth.

National Farmers' Union regional spokesman Rob Simpson told BBC News Online: "There are thousands of animals in the area and there's a lot of worried people about at the moment."

Mr Simpson said fast-track tests are being carried out at the government laboratory in Pirbright, Surrey: "We will all be holding our breath."

Optimism

The farm involved in the scare is on the edge of a blue box zone, where animal movements face severe restrictions to minimise the chance of foot-and-mouth spreading.

Mr Simpson said a glimmer of hope came when vets returned to the farm on Friday to inspect the rest of the dairy herd and around 400 sheep.


It spreads like wildfire and other cows show symptoms within a matter of hours

Rob Simpson
NFU spokesman
"They did not find any signs of the disease," he said. "Often if you have one case of the disease in a dairy cow it spreads like wildfire and other cows show symptoms within a matter of hours."

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Following a report from a farmer in the Blue Box in County Durham, Defra vets have gone out to examine his stock.

"One cow showed a lesion from which foot-and-mouth could not be eliminated."

Mr Simpson said farmers were hoping the cow had eaten something which caused the lesion in its mouth.

The last case confirmed in County Durham was on September 4, while the last case nationally was confirmed in Appleby, Cumbria on September 30.

Since the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth around 140,000 animals have been slaughtered in County Durham, making it one of the most severely affected areas.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | England
Minister defends disease strategy
11 Oct 01 | England
Cull was 'chaos and a shambles'
04 Oct 01 | England
Council inquiry to be webcast
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