No let-up in UK virus controls
LONDON, England -- Britain's agriculture minister is promising that efforts to contain foot-and-mouth disease in the UK will not be relaxed.
Nick Brown is expected to tell MP's in Britain on Thursday that the government will not be complacent, following a report that said the epidemic may be levelling off.
The total number of cases of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed in the UK had risen to 1,025 by Thursday.
The government says more vets are arriving in Britain from the U.S. to help keep the slaughter policy on track.
And the number of soldiers involved in combating the disease is set to almost double over the next two weeks from 1,500 to 2,900.
U.S. tightens defences
The United States says it is strengthening its defences against the disease that has also spread to the Netherlands, France and Ireland -- albeit on a much smaller scale.
"We are taking every effort that we possibly can to make sure that we do not experience what (Britain) has been experiencing over the past several weeks," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said after talks with President George W. Bush.
The detection of foot-and-mouth in a French region prompted the United States on March 13 to ban the import of livestock and fresh meats, mostly pork, from the entire 15-nation European Union.
U.S. officials say an outbreak in the United States could cause billions of dollars worth of losses to farmers.
The Netherlands has 15 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth, France two and Ireland one. The disease has also surfaced recently in South America and the Middle East.
European Union veterinary experts agreed on Wednesday to extend a ban imposed on British meat exports but eased trade restrictions elsewhere in Europe.
Britain's chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, said on Wednesday that efforts to slaughter animals within 24 hours of diagnosis, and cull livestock on farms surrounding infected sites within two days, were starting to take effect.
"It looks to me as if the policy is biting," King told reporters, adding that in another seven days he would be able to say if the disease had peaked.
Only last month, King warned that unless drastic measures were taken, as many as half of Britain's 62 million livestock would have to be killed to wipe out the epidemic.
More than a million animals have either been culled or earmarked for slaughter in Britain in an attempt to get a grip on the disease, now plaguing the country for a seventh week.
A man was arrested after a slaughterman helping cull livestock in Britain's foot-and-mouth crisis was shot in the head and seriously injured, police said on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Cumbria police force in northwest England said they had arrested the 37-year-old man on "suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent" after Wednesday's shooting.
The 27-year-old slaughterman was shot while culling animals at Great Orton airfield. He was taken to hospital where he was reported to be in a serious condition.
Foot-and-mouth, endemic in some parts of the world, afflicts cloven-hoofed animals causing severe weight loss. It has little or no effect on humans. The disease is easily spread on people's clothing and by the wind.
UK meat export ban widened
European Union agriculture policies
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