Restrictions lifted on 8,500 farms as foot–and–mouth epidemic eases

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The Independent Online

Britain's livestock industry took a step closer to a full recovery from a foot–and–mouth epidemic as restrictions on 8,500 farms in northern England were lifted.

Britain's livestock industry took a step closer to a full recovery from a foot–and–mouth epidemic as restrictions on 8,500 farms in northern England were lifted.

The move by the Department for Environment, or Defra, left just 6,630 farms restricted by disease controls, down from more than 140,000 at the epidemic's height.

It has been more than five weeks since the last new case of foot–and–mouth, raising hopes that the livestock disease has been contained.

However, a senior health official warned Tuesday that the risk of a fresh outbreak remained high because the disease could lie dormant somewhere in Britain.

Rural Affairs Minister Lord Whitty repeated those concerns Thursday as he welcomed the latest lifting of livestock movement restrictions.

"I would emphasize that now, as always, vigilance and strict biosecurity are essential," he said. "We cannot afford to relax our guard."

Foot–and–mouth is a highly contagious disease that causes wasting in cloven–hoofed animals such as cows, sheep and pigs. While neither fatal to animals nor infectious in humans, it can ravage a country's livestock trade.

After more than 30 disease–free years, foot–and–mouth was found Feb. 20 among pigs in a slaughterhouse. By Sept. 30, 2,030 cases had been confirmed across Britain.

Nearly 4 million animals have been slaughtered by the government in its fight to contain the disease.

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