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New UK foot-and-mouth case

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Abattoirs have adopted strict measures to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease  

LONDON, England -- Another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in southern England by UK Ministry of Agriculture vets.

The announcement was made on Sunday following tests which confirmed the disease at the farm in Highampton, north Devon, which has 600 cattle and 1,500 sheep.

Investigators are carrying out tests at 11 other premises in Devon and two in Cornwall which are run by the farmer.

The news came as a mass nationwide cull of livestock was being carried out in an effort to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore said he was "reasonably certain" that the Devon farmer, who is a sheep dealer, had been exporting to Europe.

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But he said there would have been no exports since the European Union ban was put in place last week after the start of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the European Commission had been informed of the risk that infected sheep might have been exported from the Highampton farm.

But government inspectors have only found evidence of the disease in cattle on the farm, where one animal was found to have blisters in its mouth and another 50 were salivating.

Brown had earlier confirmed that Burnside Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, north east England, was thought to be the source of the outbreak of the disease, which has brought the country's livestock industry to a standstill.

Foot-and-mouth was first identified last week among 28 pigs at an abattoir in Essex near London, prompting a European ban on exports of British animals, fresh meat and milk.

Officials are working to establish whether there is a link between the scene of the probable outbreak in Devon and the Northumberland and Essex sites.

They are also examining why it took so long for the disease to be identified at the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm, where it is thought to have been present for up to four weeks.

Lists of potential sources of foot-and-mouth abroad were being compiled and separate studies were under way on how modern working practices might spread the disease, Brown said.

The government has banned all transport of livestock in an attempt to stop any further spreading of the disease, which affects pigs, cows, sheep and goats but is harmless to humans.

Checks were also being carried out on whether controls at borders were adequate to stop suspect meat entering the country.

Brown also repeated his plea to the public not to visit the countryside and not to panic-buy food, saying: "There is absolutely no need to stock up with any product. There is plenty of food for all of us."

The government's chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore said pigs would be slaughtered at six confirmed "outbreak sites" as well as two farms bordering one of the sites

The outbreak -- the first in Britain since 1967 -- has dealt a bitter blow to the British meat industry, only just recovering from the crippling effects of mad cow disease.

The 1967 outbreak developed into a major crisis and led to the slaughter of nearly half a million animals.

Many experts believe the current outbreak of the disease is Asian in origin, with the infection entering Britain In reply to: contaminated meat that was later fed to pigs.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
EU Commission for Foot-and-Mouth disease control
National Farmers' Union
Food Standards Agency

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