All-clear for farm workers suspected to have disease

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The Independent Online

Fears that foot-and-mouth disease may have transferred to humans receded yesterday when the Government confirmed that most of the farm workers thought to have contracted the virus had been given the all- clear.

Fears that foot-and-mouth disease may have transferred to humans receded yesterday when the Government confirmed that most of the farm workers thought to have contracted the virus had been given the all- clear.

Paul Stamper, the Cumbrian slaughterman who was the first to develop symptoms of the disease after being splashed with fluid from a slaughtered cow, was among those found not to have contracted the disease.

Mr Stamper, from Dearham, had been moving carcasses at a farm near Wigton in Cumbria when one of the dead animals ruptured, spraying fluid into his mouth. Soon after, he developed symptoms of the disease, including painful blisters on his tongue and in the back of his throat. But he did not develop blisters on his hands or feet.

Yesterday Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, said tests had shown Mr Stamper had not contracted the virus.

Mr Brown said: "I am delighted that he has been given the all-clear. Otherwise this could have had serious implications for his future employment."

Officials at the Public Health Laboratory Service said that eight of the 13 people suspected to have contracted foot-and-mouth had now been given the all-clear. Blood tests still had to be done to ensure they were not carrying foot-and-mouth viral antibodies. Tests on saliva, blood and blister fluid samples from five other patients were still being done.

A spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service said: "It is very unlikely that any of the eight people we have tested are human cases of foot-and-mouth disease. But to exclude any possibility of infection, antibody tests need to be conducted."

The results were a relief for government officials, who have been anxious to play down fears of humans contracting the disease amid reports that foreign tourists had mistakenly linked foot-and-mouth with BSE.

Public health officials have insisted that although the disease is highly infectious among farm animals, it is extremely difficult for it to be contracted by humans.

Only one confirmed case of the disease in a human was found in the 1967-68 outbreak.

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