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UK reinforces tourist message

Scientists say efforts to contain the disease may be beginning to work  

LONDON, England -- The British Government has emphasized its "open for business" message while also considering mass vaccinations to beat the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Forty leaders of international travel associations are arriving in Britain on Tuesday to tour the countryside hit by the disease.

Meanwhile, scientists leading the foot-and-mouth fight say a decision on whether to start vaccinating is imminent.

The British Tourist Authority (BTA) hopes its charm offensive will show Britain is safe for tourists and that the attractions are open.

BTA Chairman David Quarmby said: "There is a lot of confusion about foot-and-mouth overseas that is keeping people away. We need to counteract these misconceptions if we are to sustain our inbound tourism industry, which is worth 13 billion a year to the economy.

"By welcoming these key opinion-formers this week, we will be able to influence many thousands of their customers and commercial partners. We will also be working with them on their return home so that we can continue to generate interest in Britain as a destination."

The tourist chiefs' visit comes as consultation continues on the use of vaccination to further dampen the spread of foot-and-mouth.

The government's chief scientific adviser David King said targeted vaccination is being considered in Devon and Cumbria for cattle being brought out of winter quarters.

At a meeting on Monday, the government's emergency management team received advice from the Food Standards Agency that vaccination would not have implications for human health and safety.

The relevant foot-and-mouth vaccines were tested in 1992 and on the renewal of the licence in 1997. On both occasions the committee was satisfied they posed no danger to people eating or drinking products from animals treated with them.

But other government officials say vaccination would cost Britain dearly, since it would lose its "disease-free" status in export markets.

The government's favoured plan of attack -- a cull of all infected animals and of healthy ones on farms near infected sites -- has come under heavy criticism because of huge backlogs of livestock waiting to be killed and then destroyed.

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Foot-and-mouth blow for N. Ireland
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European Union
British Government
Foot-and-mouth disease

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