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ANIMAL HEALTH : UK AVOIDS THE WORST IN THE FACE OF FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE.

The spread in early August through the south-east London countryside of a strain of foot and mouth disease kept for the development of vaccinations by the European reference laboratory in Pirbright (Surrey) will ultimately only have limited consequences. However, it gave cold sweats to the people responsible for hygiene and brought back memories of the dark hours experienced by the country in 2001.

On that occasion, not having taken stock of the gravity of the situation, the public authorities did not manage to control the disease. From February to November 2001, veterinary services had to slaughter more than four million animals to overcome the epizootic disease, thereby paralysing entire areas of the British economy.

Nothing of the like this time. The country's veterinary services succeeded in limiting the spread of the virus from two farms. The export of farm animals from the UK, suspended since 6 August, has been resumed.

To arrive at this point, the UK proceeded with the quick slaughter of livestock contaminated (or suspected of being contaminated) with foot and mouth disease. In order to avoid spreading the epizootic disease, a complete stop to the movement of all animals was decreed very soon after the first case was confirmed.

The two confirmed farms were discovered on 3 and 7 August. According to British veterinary experts, the risk of the epizootic disease spreading to regions other than Surrey is "very low" from this point on. No other case has been discovered since and the incubation period for the recurrence of the disease has passed.

It's for this reason that, with the backing of the European Commission, most of the restriction measures introduced on breeders across the UK were lifted on 25 August, including the ban on transporting live animals. The EU27 have, however, decided to maintain the protection zone of a 10-kilometre perimeter around the infected farms in the county of Surrey. Furthermore, the Commission clarifies, the sale of animals will remain subject to strict veterinary control.

Veterinary experts from the EU will re-examine the situation on 11 September. The UK believes it will be able to recover its status as a country free of the disease in early November.

In the eyes of the experts, the fight against the epizootic disease was facilitated by the quick discovery of the virus's origin: the strain probably came from the Pirbright laboratory. It is situated just five kilometres from the two farms.

The growth of the disease has been judged "favourable" by the Commission also thanks to the application, since the start of the crisis, of the principle of maximum precaution by the British authorities. On 6 August, the whole of the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland, was classed as a high risk contamination zone, a synonym for a complete stop to the export of livestock and all animal products to the rest of the European Union. This decision was confirmed two days later by the Commission.

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 29, 2007
Words:489
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