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New human foot-and-mouth scares

There are fears that burning carcasses may be releasing harmful chemicals  

LONDON, England -- Two more cases of suspected foot-and-mouth disease in humans are being investigated by health officials in the UK.

The latest suspected cases come a day after it emerged tests were being carried out on a slaughterman from north Cumbria suspected of contracting the disease.

A spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) confirmed on Tuesday that tests were being carried out to confirm whether two more people have the disease.

The spokesman would not say where the latest suspect cases were, or who could be affected, but said they were not in north Cumbria.


CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney: Gruesome circumstances in the Cumbrian case

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"There are a lot of symptoms that can seem similar to foot-and-mouth and the case yesterday has obviously raised concerns," he said.

The disease is extremely mild in humans, with people suffering flu-like symptoms and blisters on hands and in the mouth.

There are no recorded cases of human-to-human transmission of the disease and there has only been one previous case of human foot-and-mouth in the UK.

The two cases were revealed after it emerged that the Cumbrian slaughterman may have become infected when a rotting carcass he was carrying exploded in his face.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday that it had yet to be confirmed whether the slaughterman had contracted the disease.

Results of tests are expected on Wednesday evening.

Blair's spokesman said: "My understanding is that (the slaughterman) was moving the decomposing carcass of a cow, when that carcass exploded, and the fluid went into his mouth.

"I only say this just to illustrate that should this be confirmed, how unusual are the circumstances regarding this individual possibly contracting foot-and-mouth.

"As we have said throughout, there is no health risk to the general population."

The spokesman stressed that the Food Standards Agency had said there were no implications for the human food chain.

"There is no question of any of the meat going into the food chain. Even were it to do so, there is no risk to human health," he said.

When Monday's suspected case was revealed, the PHLS said it had been alerted to six previous suspected human cases of foot-and-mouth since the beginning of the outbreak -- but tests had proved negative each time.

The only confirmed human case of foot-and-mouth disease was diagnosed during the major UK outbreak of 1967.

Bobby Brewis, 34, a farm machinery salesman living on a farm in Yetlington, Northumbria, was then reported to have had only "indirect" contact with livestock.

Brewis developed a mild temperature, a sore throat and blisters on the palms of his hands. He also developed weals on his tongue.

He said at the time: "It was rather like flu. I just felt a bit groggy."

Meanwhile, as the number of confirmed cases in animals in the UK hit 1,500, it has been announced that the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races have been cancelled.

The decision was taken after fears the expected 40,000 spectators would increase the risk of bringing the disease to the so far infection-free island.

The races, which were scheduled to take place from May 26 to June 8, have never before been cancelled during peacetime since they began in 1907.

As Britain continues with its policy of culling and burning hundreds of thousands of animals, toxicologists are warning that the burning of livestock poses a cancer risk to humans.

Bonfires had been considered one of the more efficient ways of disposing of the carcasses, but now there is mounting concern about the health risk from dioxins.

A government-funded report estimates that in six weeks, the fires released more than two-thirds of the dioxins produced by British industry in a year.

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Department of Health
UK Ministry of Agriculture
Foot-and-Mouth Disease

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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