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Panic stations as foot and mouth epidemic spreads to Europe, Argentina
Brussels: The five-week-old outbreak of foot and mouth disease that began in Britain five weeks ago has now spread to cointinental Europe and Latin America.
Shockwaves from France's discovery yesterday of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease spread across Europe as governments raced to tighten preventive measures.
In Brussels, the European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee met in emergency session following confirmation of France's first foot-and-mouth outbreak in a herd of cattle, a European Commission spokeswoman said.
The United States has temporarily banned the importation of all animals and animal products from the European Union after the outbreak in France was confirmed.
Argentine authorities today confirmed they have discovered a case of foot-and-mouth disease.
The case was discovered in Rivadavia, near Buenos Aires, the National Food Safety and Quality Service said.
The bad news comes just as Argentina was on a marketing blitz, touting its meats as disease-free to a Europe fretting over mad cow disease, and now foot-and-mouth.
Farm sector sources expect it will cost the country's exporters $US200 million ($A399 million) to $US250 million ($A499 million).
Ranchers had been pressing President Fernando de la Rua's government for about two months to acknowledge outbreaks they were reporting.
But the government did not want to lose its international certification as free of foot-and-mouth, without immunisations, which it won last May.
The British ministry of agriculture yesterday reported eight fresh outbreaks of the virus, bringing the total number to 191 in Britain.
The French case, in the western area of Mayenne, is the first in continental Europe despite massive efforts to confine the epidemic to Britain, where it broke out last month.
A French member of the European Union veterinary committee was to brief his European colleagues before any decisions were taken on further precautionary measures, the spokeswoman said.
Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Germany immediately slapped a ban on all imports from France of animals prone to the highly infectious disease.
The German state of North Rhine-Whestphalia ordered the slaughter of all sheep imported from France in the last three weeks and banned all livestock imports from France.
German authorities said they were probing what other animals at risk of spreading the disease had recently arrived from the country and called on people to stay away from France.
Italians authorities were looking into what they suspect may be the first case of the disease in Italy in a flock of sheep imported from France.
The entire flock, in the central Abruzzi region, was put under quarantine pending final results of blood tests expected in the coming days.
Dutch authorites extended a ban on the movement of sheep to include cattle, goats and pigs and said they were tracking down animals imported from France for urgent testing.
Denmark and Norway said they were following developments closely and would hold off until the EU veterinarians meeting in Brussels came forward with recommendations.
The EC spokeswoman said it would be "a little premature" to lay out plans for a Europe-wide vaccination campaign against foot-and-mouth because it remained possible to track the origins of the disease.
The cattle infected in France were on a farm neighbouring one known to have imported British sheep last month, she stressed.
The French agriculture ministry also announced yesterday the virus had been detected in three sheep from a large flock slaughtered on March 1 in the Seine-et-Marne region east of Paris.
But tests were continuing and it had not yet been confirmed that the animals had developed the disease, the ministry said.
Foot-and-mouth disease first appeared in Britain on February 19, prompting EU governments to adopt a raft a measures to prevent the virus from reaching the continent.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), March 13, 2001