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BBC NI's agriculture correspondent Martin Cassidy
reports from County Antrim: "It may be a few days before they know if this is another case"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Disease hits NI business confidence
The disease is in the NI sheep flock
More suspected foot-and-mouth cases investigated
A survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland has said the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak has hit business confidence in the province.

The Business Confidence survey, published on Thursday, said the outbreak had "seriously affected" companies' own business confidence as well as further weakening confidence in the Northern Ireland economy.

Deirdre Stewart, assistant director of CBI in Northern Ireland, said the outbreak was seen as a problem far beyond the agri-food sector.

"Both the service sector and other areas of manufacturing are reporting its negative impact on business," she said.

One of the province's banks also expressed concern on Thursday about the effects of foot-and-mouth on its farming account holders.

Don Price, chief executive of the Northern Bank, said they were "concerned about pressures on agricultural customers from the foot-and-mouth situation".

Service sector and other areas of manufacturing are reporting negative impact

Deirdre Stewart - CBI

Meanwhile, more suspected cases of the disease are being investigated on farms in counties Antrim and Londonderry.

A farm near Ballycastle in County Antrim was placed under restrictions on Wednesday after Department of Agriculture blood tests on sheep found foot-and-mouth anti-bodies.

Testing programme

When vets came back to Pat McCarry's farm at Murlough Bay they found 18 of his 325 sheep were showing lesions consistent with the disease.

The farm is about 15 miles away from an earlier outbreak near Cushendall, which was discovered three weeks ago.

Further samples have been sent to the laboratory at Pirbright in Surrey and a three-kilometre restriction zone has been set up.

The department has been testing sheep flocks throughout Northern Ireland following the province's previous outbreaks.

More than 1,300 flocks have been blood tested so far in the mass screening programme.

The disease has been widespread in Britain, but the province has had just four confirmed outbreaks - two in County Tyrone, one in south Armagh and the other in Cushendall.

Anti-body fears

Meanwhile, vets are to examine sheep at a farm a few miles away from Ballycastle at Torr Head, where anti-bodies have also been found in a blood sample.

In Londonderry, sheep are being culled on a farm near Magherafelt.

The results of blood tests on the flock of 64 animals on the farm in the Loop area have also shown evidence of antibodies.

The farm is within the restriction zone which had been set up around the outbreak on the Donnelly farm at Ardboe in County Tyrone.

Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers
Brid Rodgers: Flock culled as precaution
The Department of Agriculture said the cull was being carried out as a precautionary measure and that tests on sheep on other farms nearby were clear.

They said that it was not surprising that the anti-bodies had shown up, but that the animals were not showing clinical signs of foot-and-mouth.

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers said the anti-bodies did not mean the flock had foot-and-mouth disease, but that it may have been exposed to the virus at some stage in the past.

The Department of Agriculture can be contacted on its helpline numbers on 02890 524279 or 02890 524590 between 0830 - 2100 GMT.

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See also:

01 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Assembly hears of disease hardship
20 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Smuggling 'threat' to disease battle
19 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
How did foot-and-mouth spread in NI?
19 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Surprise at NI livestock compensation
19 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Penalties outlined for moving animals
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