French hope they may have avoided an epidemic

France
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The Independent Online

One week after the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease on the Continent, French farmers are waiting anxiously to see if they have escaped the kind of wildfire spread of the virus that has afflicted Britain.

One week after the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease on the Continent, French farmers are waiting anxiously to see if they have escaped the kind of wildfire spread of the virus that has afflicted Britain.

All suspected cases reported since the confirmed outbreak at Mayenne in western France last Tuesday have proved negative.

Although officials at the French Ministry of Agriculture are still braced for further possible outbreaks, there are tentative hopes that France may have acted quickly - and decisively - enough to prevent a full-scale epidemic.

French officials do not claim to have done anything better than - or even very different from - the British Government. They say they had the advantage of being able to take pre-emptive action, before the disease took hold. Britain has been running for the last four weeks to catch up with an outbreak that had already spread across the countryside before the first case in Northumberland was confirmed.

Within days of Britain's first reported case, the French government ordered the slaughter of 20,000 sheep imported from the UK last month and of 30,000 French sheep that had been in contact with them. Farms that received the British sheep were treated as if they had the disease and strict quarantine controls set up in the surrounding countryside. All movements of French livestock - except under veterinary supervision to abattoirs - were banned.

The French hope these measures will, at least, have confined the foot-and-mouth virus to the immediate vicinity of the outbreak in Mayenne.

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