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DIRE WARNING: David Huxsoll of the USDA's Plum Island lab, warns of foot-and-mouth hitting the U.S. - Associated Press

April 18, 2001 -- WASHINGTON - The chances are "quite great" that foot-and-mouth disease will hit the United States, and the feds - including the CIA - are bracing for it, the director of the federal lab in New York that tests for the disease said yesterday. In the event of an outbreak, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is prepared to order numerous government agencies to take drastic steps to eradicate the disease, which mostly affects cows, pigs and sheep.

The agencies held an emergency "exercise" last week to go over the game-plan for responding to foot-and-mouth.

The CIA, the Army biological warfare unit, the Coast Guard and the Interior Department are all involved.

The agencies determined that if the disease broke out in four states, it would take 50,000 people - including military personnel to keep people out, and operators of earth-moving equipment to bury cadavers - to contain the outbreak.

"You always have to be prepared, just in case. That's what we do," said Kevin Herglotz, spokesman for the USDA, which is taking the lead on monitoring borders to keep the disease out of the country.

FEMA spokeswoman Holly Harrington said an outbreak of foot-and-mouth would likely prompt President Bush to declare an "emergency," which would allow FEMA to move more quickly to respond - and with more leeway.

David Huxsoll, director of the only U.S. lab that tests for foot-and-mouth, said chances are "quite great" that it will hit the United States because the disease is epidemic in Britain and there's a great deal of travel between the two countries.

"It's only through the diligence of the people at the various ports of entry that we've been able to keep it out. I'll have to add also luck," said Huxsoll, director of the USDA's Plum Island lab off Long Island.

The Agriculture Department recently added 1,000 inspectors to ports, and the United States has banned imports of livestock and raw meat from Europe.

North America is one of only three continents to remain free of the disease - along with Australia and Antarctica - and hasn't had a case since 1929, according to the Plum Island lab.

The foot-and-mouth virus is highly contagious, carried by wheels, wind and feet. It causes fever and blisters on the animals it strikes. Although it doesn't affect people, humans do spread it.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 18, 2001


If the chance that F and M diseases hits this country is quite great, we may fast become a nation of vegetarians.

-- Billiver (, April 18, 2001.

Well this is grate news! The only lab that tests for the disease is one of the most elite-controlled-secretive-multi-layered "research facilities" in the country.

-- (, April 19, 2001.

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