Wild deer infected despite official denial, say experts

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The Independent Online

Foot and mouth disease could be endemic in Britain. Experts in wild deer yesterday claimed the disease had spread to the wild animals, in spite of the assurances by Maff scientists that tests had proved negative.

Foot and mouth disease could be endemic in Britain. Experts in wild deer yesterday claimed the disease had spread to the wild animals, in spite of the assurances by Maff scientists that tests had proved negative.

Hugh Rose of the British Deer Society said the negative results may be faulty. "There are a lot of vets who have become very familiar with the signs of foot and mouth. If they say the symptoms are classic foot and mouth and the lab reports are negative, there may be a fault in the sampling."

Dr John Fletcher, former president of the Veterinary Deer Association, told BBC radio he was convinced the disease has spread to wild deer.

Roger Atkinson who farms near Penrith found a three-year-old dead stag on his land with classic signs of foot and mouth. He alerted Maff who sent vets to inspect the animal.

"They were in no doubt at all that this deer had died from foot and mouth," he said. "They took samples from the tongue, blisters in the mouth, faeces, and urine. You can't test for foot and mouth from a blood sample. This is why all the tests always come back negative."

Maff confirmed tests were being carried out on deer but denied any positive results had been made. Fears that the disease could have spread to wild animals will intensify the demands for vaccination. The Tories have been wary of supporting vaccination while the farmers are split on the issue. John Redwood, the Conservative parliamentary campaigns co-ordinator, broke ranks by calling for vaccination to start.

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