Irish Confirm Foot-and-Mouth Case : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Wednesday February 28 2:47 PM ET Irish Confirm Foot-and-Mouth Case

By SUE LEEMAN, Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) - Nervous authorities at ports in the Irish Republic disinfected visitors from Britain on Wednesday as officials confirmed that highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease had crossed the Irish Sea.

Officials in Northern Ireland said Wednesday they have found the disease in sheep imported from England on a farm that that straddles the border with the Irish Republic.

The cases were found among 200 English sheep tested after they were slaughtered in the first Irish cull. At the same time, London confirmed another eight cases of the disease in England and Wales.

``It is now our belief we are looking at an outbreak of this disease in Northern Ireland,'' said Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers. Officials have declared the area around the farm a no-go zone and are questioning a livestock importer and a dealer allegedly involved with bringing in the animals, she said.

The British Army said it had ``modified'' its patrols along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to reduce the risk of spreading the disease, but gave no other details.

At ports and airports in the republic, travelers from Britain are required to wade through baths of disinfectant before entering the country, a spokeswoman for the agriculture ministry said.

At 30 checkpoints along the borders, police and soldiers enforced an earlier ban on all meat, livestock and dairy products from Britain.

Although humans almost never catch the disease - which affects cloven-hooted animals - they can carry it on boots and clothing. The virus can also be airborne, transmitted from one animal to another, or contracted through contaminated feed.

Britain said new cases of foot-and-mouth disease had been confirmed at two farms in Wales as well as farms in Hereford in western England, the central counties of Leicestershire and Warwickshire, Devon county in the south and Essex county north of London. A case was also confirmed at a slaughterhouse in the northern England county of Lancashire - bringing the number of affected farms and slaughterhouses to 26.

A total of 102 farms in the contagion areas are under some kind of restriction, either sealed off completely or forced to take various precautions against the disease, which spreads rapidly through the air.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told Parliament that some 15,000 animals - 3,000 cattle, 11,000 sheep and nearly 2,000 pigs - have been slaughtered or are awaiting slaughter as authorities try to avoid a repeat of a 1967 foot-and-mouth epidemic, when half a million animals were culled.

Britain on Tuesday extended a ban on livestock movements for two more weeks, and the European Union lengthened its ban on British exports of live animals, meat and dairy products.

Authorities have also closed public footpaths and canceled horse races and various sporting events, in an attempt to minimize the possibility of humans spreading the virus. Some roads were closed due to smoke billowing from pyres of slaughtered animals.

Hoping to avoid major meat shortages, the government is working on a plan that will allow farmers to move healthy animals to slaughterhouses and markets only with strictly enforced precautions to prevent them from spreading the infection.

The plan, expected to take effect on Friday, calls for issuing permits to unaffected farmers allowing them to move their livestock to disease-free slaughterhouses or strictly controlled holding areas.

The government also plans to draw $228 million from an EU agriculture fund to compensate beef, dairy and sheep farmers who may be unable export their products for up to six months after Britain is declared free of the disease.

-- K. (, March 01, 2001

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