More pigs to die as disease spreads

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The Independent Online

A full-scale emergency operation is under way this weekend to try to contain the swine disease outbreak in East Anglia.

A full-scale emergency operation is under way this weekend to try to contain the swine disease outbreak in East Anglia.

Nearly 6,000 animals have already been slaughtered in efforts to control the disease and more pigs were due to be killed today.

Pigs on another five farms linked to the breeding unit where the disease appears to have originated will also have to be killed, the Ministry of Agriculture said. The animals slaughtered include a herd of 950 pigs from a farm in Essex, 1,500 from a breeding unit in Norfolk and 3,500 at a farm in Suffolk.

A three-kilometre exclusion zone has been set up around the stricken farms and farmers will not be allowed to move pigs in the area.

There are half a million pigs in Suffolk and all visitors and vehicles to farms in the area will have to go through a powerful disinfectant "dip" to ward off the disease. A team of Maff inspectors will also begin checking other farms, but a spokesman stressed that the disease poses no threat to human health.

Like BSE, swine fever can be spread by feeding infected meat products to animals. The viral disease - also known as hog cholera - is highly infectious and farmers fear that the growing trend to rear pigs outdoors could lead to its rapid spread.

James Black, vice chairman of the National Pig Association, who farms in Suffolk, said: "This is a very serious disease that is easily spread and can even be carried by staff and vehicles. Restrictions will have to be in place for weeks."

Meanwhile, the ban on exports of British pigs prompted by the outbreak could last for several weeks, the Government's chief veterinary officer has warned. Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have imposed an import embargo on pigs from the UK.

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