UK reports another foot-and-mouth outbreak

Sep 12, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – English officials announced today that foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been confirmed in cattle on another farm in Surrey, less than a week after announcing that the disease had been eradicated from the area.

The farm is near the town of Egham, about 10 miles from the site of two earlier FMD outbreaks, the London Telegraph reported today.

In early August, FMD was confirmed at two other farms in Surrey, about 30 miles southwest of London. A Sep 7 report from the United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the outbreaks were likely caused by faulty wastewater drains at an FMD laboratory facility in nearby Pirbright that houses a commercial vaccine producer and a government-funded research institute.

The DEFRA report said the virus could have been discharged from the drains after flooding, and contaminated soil then might have been spread to nearby roads and farms by construction vehicles that had been at the Pirbright site.

Debby Reynolds, the UK's chief veterinary officer, confirmed the new FMD findings in cattle at the farm on the basis of initial test results and clinical symptoms, according to a DEFRA statement.

Authorities have not yet identified the strain of the virus or its source, she said.

The farm is made up of several separate land parcels, and officials have established a 3-kilometer protective zone and a 10-kilometer surveillance zone around each of them, the DEFRA statement said.

"This is news that no one wanted to hear, least of all the farming industry," said Hilary Benn, secretary of state for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, in the DEFRA statement.

DEFRA imposed a national ban on the movement of cattle, sheep, pigs, and other ruminants within England and said similar arrangements were being made in Scotland and Wales. Restrictions have been placed on the movement of animal carcasses and on animal gatherings as well on sheep shearing and dipping, and strict biosecurity requirements have been ordered for farms in the protection and surveillance zones, the DEFRA statement said.

The new outbreak has prompted the European Commission to postpone plans to resume meat exports from Britain to the rest of Europe, according to the Telegraph report.

FMD is an extremely contagious disease that affects cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and deer, causing sores in the mouth and on the hooves. It debilitates but does not usually kill adult animals, but it drastically reduces milk production. The disease very rarely affects humans, according to DEFRA.

In 2001 a major FMD outbreak in Britain led to a massive containment effort in which 7 million cattle were destroyed, crippling the farm economy and rural tourism.

See also:

Sep 7 CIDRAP News story "British blame leaky drain for foot-and-mouth outbreak"

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