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Human tested for foot-and-mouth

LONDON, England -- UK health officials are investigating a suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease in a human.

Tests have been carried out on a slaughterman employed at an abattoir in Cumbria, northern England, the Department of Health said on Monday.

A department spokesman told CNN: "We can confirm that a slaughterman from Cumbria is showing symptoms associated with the human form of foot-and-mouth.

"Tests have been carried out and we hope to know the results in the next couple of days."

He said that the symptoms were "fairly-mild, flu-like with blistering on the hands."

The only other confirmed human case of the disease was diagnosed in 1966 during a major outbreak in the UK.

Bobby Brewis, 34, a farm machinery salesman living on a farm in Yetlington, Northumbria, was reported to have had only "indirect" contact with livestock.

Brewis developed a mild temperature, a sore throat and blisters on the palms of his hands. He also developed weals on his tongue.

Laboratory tests showed that he was suffering from foot-and-mouth disease.

Brewis was reported as saying at the time: "It was rather like flu. I just felt a bit groggy."

A spokeswoman for the Public Health Laboratory Service stressed: "Cases of foot-and-mouth in humans are extremely rare.

"When you consider how many people have been exposed to the virus during the exercise to contain and eradicate it, it shows that the virus is not very good at affecting humans."

She said that when humans did contract foot-and-mouth, it was a very mild illness, which invariably cleared up within a matter of weeks.

She added: "In terms of humans it's not a big public health issue, which is judged by the number of cases there have been."

The spokeswoman said that it had been alerted to six previous suspected human cases of foot-and-mouth since the beginning of the outbreak - but tests had proved negative each time.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's office was quick to try to draw a distinction between the dangers faced by slaughtermen and tourists.

"The position of a slaughterman is different from a tourist. They are handling animals which are infected. (This case) should not be allowed to affect tourism," a spokesman for the prime minister said.

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Department of Health
UK Ministry of Agriculture
Foot-and-Mouth Disease

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