Foot-and-mouth crisis 'is under control'

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The Independent Online

Early signs that the foot-and-mouth crisis may be under control emerged yesterday as farmers prepared to reopen trade for the first time since the disease crippled British agriculture two weeks ago. Five new cases were confirmed, at two farms in Devon, and in Co Durham, Herefordshire and Dumfries and Galloway, taking the total to 74. All were believed to be linked to previous cases.

Early signs that the foot-and-mouth crisis may be under control emerged yesterday as farmers prepared to reopen trade for the first time since the disease crippled British agriculture two weeks ago. Five new cases were confirmed, at two farms in Devon, and in Co Durham, Herefordshire and Dumfries and Galloway, taking the total to 74. All were believed to be linked to previous cases.

No new focus of the disease has been found, suggesting that all cases are linked to the original outbreak at a pig farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland. Vets hope that the strict ban on animal movements will prevent a further spread of the disease.

Jim Scudamore, the chief veterinary officer, said: "We don't seem to be getting an exponential increase - it's a level increase of nine or 10 a day. Many of these are farms where we expect to find the disease because they were linked.There are cases still appearing and they will continue to appear."

Fears that a new case on Dartmoor may have been wind-borne diminished after early inquiries suggested a link with livestock movements.

A team of epidemiologists has been sent to Dunna Bridge Farm, in the heart of the moor, to investigate the outbreak and assess the risk to wildlife and other livestock, which grazes common land. Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, said there were no plans to cull deer or wild boar, even if they became infected, after vets warned that such action might hasten the spread of the disease. Dartmoor ponies cannot catch foot-and-mouth.

Farmers' leaders called for a ring of troops to be stationed around the farm to stop the disease spreading.

The next week will be crucial: the ban on the movement of livestock will have been in place for two weeks on Friday. Vets hope infected animals will show signs of the disease after a two-week incubation period.

The Royal Botanic Gardens has closed its Wakehurst Place site in West Sussex. A French ban on the movement of racehorses will hit the three-day Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, which begins next Tuesday.

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