14/09/2007

FMD Restrictions Eased Outside England

Restrictions on the movement of animals following the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England have been eased in Scotland and Wales.

The restrictions have been eased in order to allow farmers to transport livestock for slaughter, but they still remain unable to move animals for any other reasons.

The general ban remains in place in England.

A new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was found at the Milton Park Farm in Stroude Road in Egham on Wednesday.

A 10km exclusion zone was set up around the farm, which is ten miles from the site of August's outbreak of the disease, and all the cattle there were slaughtered. It emerged on Friday that cattle culled as a precautionary measure at a second farm - Stroude Farm - near Milton Park Farm, have tested positive for foot-and-mouth.

However, a temporary exclusion zone set up around a farm in Norfolk, where a suspected foot-and-mouth case was being investigated, has been lifted after tests proved negative for the disease.

This brings the number of farms directly affected by confirmed foot-and-mouth outbreaks to four. A report suggested that the likely source of the outbreak was the nearby Pirbright research site, which is shared by private pharmaceutical company Merial and the Institute for Animal Health. However, the report said it was not clear which of the labs was responsible.

On Thursday, the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that initial tests at the site of the new outbreak had found that the virus was "likely" to be the same strain that infected the two farms in August. Scientists are working on the theory that he disease was carried through the air or in soil.

Last Friday, the government said that the affected area was now free of foot-and-mouth and has faced criticism that the country was declared free of the disease too soon.

The government denied suggestions that the chief vet Debby Reynolds was pressurised into giving the all clear too quickly.

(KMcA/SP)

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