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Humans' animal virus tests negative

Hundreds of thousands of animals have been culled to try and stop the spread of the disease  

LONDON, England -- The first 13 humans tested for foot-and-mouth disease have all been cleared, British officials said.

However, the Public Health Laboratory Service said on Saturday that two more suspected cases were being investigated.

Meanwhile, it was announced that infected area restrictions on 1,300 farms in foot-and-mouth outbreak areas in Britain had been lifted.

Countryside Minister Elliot Morley said that with few or no recent cases in some areas of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset the move will enable farmers to apply for licences to move their livestock -- although they remain subject to national crisis regulations.

Nearly 1,500 cases in British livestock have been confirmed since it first broke out in late February, with 26 cases in the Netherlands, two in France and one in Ireland.

The last confirmed human case in Britain was a man infected in 1966 during the last foot-and-mouth epidemic. Human infections of foot-and-mouth disease are extremely rare, and victims recover quickly.

On Friday it was announced that a British farm worker feared to be the first person to contract foot-and-mouth disease amid the current crisis had tested negative for the virus.

Peter Stamper was splashed with fluid from a slaughtered cow as he helped move carcasses, creating a media storm when it was suspected he may have caught the mild disease which is usually confined to cloven-hoofed animals.

Morley said the latest easing of restrictions was good news: "I am particularly pleased that we are able to lift some of the restrictions in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.

"This is very good news for the West Country as it is the first time since the start of the foot-and-mouth outbreak that we have been in a position to release farms in heavily affected areas from infected area restrictions."

Regulations require three-kilometre protection zones and 10-kilometre surveillance zones around infected premises with all susceptible livestock in the protection zone inspected regularly for 21 days.

In total 16,417 farms have now had such restrictions lifted, and Morley emphasised that the process to do so was "rigorous."

It means the farmers will be able to take animals to any slaughterhouse willing to accept them as long as it can be reached in an uninterrupted journey of less than four-and-a-half hours.

A vet no longer has to inspect the animals before movement.

Dutch protests

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, farmers caught up in the crisis have been protesting at what they believe to be low levels of foot-and-mouth compensation brought chaos to roads across the country.

Dutch cattle and pig farmers blocked roads and halted traffic in 10 towns across the country on Friday in their call for more compensation, the Traffic Information Centre told the Reuters news agency.

At Amersfoort in central Netherlands about 50 tractors took to the roads in a go-slow, while in the east of the country traffic was backed-up for up to nine kilometres (five miles) on the A1 between Apeldoorn and Henglo.

Pig farmers, flouting a court ruling against demonstrations in the south of the country, handed out leaflets which criticised their Agriculture Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.

"Brinkhorst is not making good his promises," they said. "He has abandoned the pig farmers in this crisis."

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UK urged to end cattle slaughter

Ministry of Agriculture
Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Home Page
British Government
Dutch Ministry of Agriculture

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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