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CNN Today

Foot and Mouth Disease Concern British Farmers

Aired February 26, 2001 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: If mad cow disease wasn't enough to worry about, British farmers have another outbreak on their hands: foot and mouth disease. A 1967 epidemic forced Britain to slaughter and burn the carcasses of almost half a million sheep, pigs and cattle. Now, the burning has begun again. Here's CNN's Jennifer Eccleston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thick smoke blankets this farming village in rural northern England. So dense, residents in and around the village are advised to stay indoors. Fears of a wider outbreak of foot and mouth disease lead officials here to slaughter hundreds of pigs and cattle in farms where the disease is present and in those that neighbor affected areas.

Incineration is believed to be the most effective means to containing the disease. The British government has promised full compensation for farmers; but that's small comfort for those who are watching their livelihood go up in smoke.

NICK BROWN, BRITISH AGRICULTURE MIN.: Provided that everybody helps us with this and that simple precautions are taken by those operating farm businesses, we should be able to get this under control in a workmanlike way.

ECCLESTON: Foot and mouth is a highly infectious viral disease which affects cattle, sheep, pigs, deer and goats, causing blistering on hooves and mouths, loss of appetite and lameness. It is potentially fatal. It can travel through the air and animals can contract it by simply being in a place, like a field or truck, where an infected animal or infected meat has been. Or by coming into contact with a person who has been exposed to an infected animal.

It hits farmers' incomes, but unlike BSE or mad cow, it does not threaten people.

MICHAEL MCGOWAN, ROYAL VETERINARY COLLEGE: I'm extremely concerned how this is escalating; and because of the size of the latest business, has the potential to escalate even further.

ECCLESTON: The latest business is an outbreak at a large farm in southwestern England. It sells livestock to buyers to Europe. A shipment was exported to the continent before the government imposed its export ban on meat, milk and live animals last week, raising fears here and abroad that the disease could have been exported as well.

(on camera): The disease has put Britain's countryside under virtual quarantine. People are being asked to stay away from rural areas and many of the country's zoo and wildlife parks are closed. The disease is now beginning to affect London. Richmond Park, home to many deer and a popular tourist attraction, will close indefinitely. Park officials say, they're doing all they can do stem the outbreak and help Britain's beleaguered farmers.

Jennifer Eccleston. CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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