UK Government Inspectors have said there is a strong probability that the current outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease originated in two research labs near the site of the infection. First confirmed in cattle four days ago, experts say there is a real possibility that the release of the virus involved “human movement”. ¨
The government’s Institute for Animal Health and the US-French owned vaccine manufacturer Merial are located around eight kilometres from the farm with the infected livestock. Both handle the rare strain which has struck the herd, last isolated by British scientists 40 years ago.
“The risk of, or the likelihood, of an airborne spread of this disease from the Pirbright Laboratories is negligible. They also state as negligible the likelihood of a direct connection between water flowing from the facilities to the infected site,” said Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Two outbreaks have so far been confirmed near the labs in south east England. Animals from both sites have been culled and a ten kilometre protection zone set up. The outbreak poses an immediate threat to the UK’s 700 million euro livestock industry, still reeling from an epidemic six years ago. The EU has moved quickly to ban all British exports of fresh meat, live animals and milk.