Foot and mouth spreads even further in the UK

It now appears that the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England has spread outside the protection zone, dashing any hopes that the disease had been contained.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) a new suspected case of the virulent virus has been discovered to the west of Dorking near to the two confirmed cases of the disease.

As a result a 3km temporary control zone has been established around undisclosed premises in Surrey, which are outside the existing surveillance area.

DEFRA says this was done following an "inconclusive assessment" of symptoms in cattle there.

The UK's chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds says the containment and eradication of foot and mouth disease remains a priority which is why authorities have moved swiftly to place a temporary control zone around the area.

It is not clear yet whether the third outbreak was foot and mouth.

The original outbreaks concerned cattle which had been grazing at two sites in the village of Normandy, near Guildford, which is close to a research facility in Pirbright, Surrey.

The research facility is on a site shared by two laboratories, the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), a diagnostic and research centre, and the pharmaceutical company Merial Animal Health, whose work includes manufacturing vaccines.

Investigations into the cause of the outbreak have focused on these facilities.

Farmers and those who keep animals have been warned to practice the highest standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions quickly.

Fears of a proliferation in the foot and mouth outbreak are now mounting and confirmation of the disease at the site would indicate it has spread further from the epicentre close to two research facilities.

It has also been revealed that a case of Legionnaires' disease was also linked to one of the two Surrey laboratories after a contract worker at the lab reported symptoms associated with legionella infection.

The Health Protection Agency says there is no link between Legionnaires' disease and the virus causing foot and mouth disease and the bacterium was not produced at the animal vaccine lab.

Restrictions on the movement of livestock from farms to slaughterhouses have been relaxed, as has the collection of dead cattle, but a ban remains on all other movements of susceptible animals and the ban on the export of animals is expected to remain until August 25th.

Results of tests on the drainage system at the Merial laboratory are still pending but the Institute for Animal Health's director, believes it is unlikely that the virus could have escaped through the drainage system, because of the chemical treatments which kill the virus before it leaves the site.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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