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Britain Quickly Tracks Down Likely Source of Foot and Mouth Infection


The specific strain of Britain's new foot-and-mouth outbreak has been identified and it looks like it may have originated from a nearby animal disease research facility. For VOA, Tom Rivers in London says investigators are examining the possibility of a costly breach of bio-security.

The isolated strain, 01BFS67, came from the 1967 outbreak in Britain. That unique version of the virus is used at a British government research lab and at the U.S.-French owned pharmaceutical company Merial, which is also on the same site as the lab about six kilometers from the outbreak farm.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown chaired his third emergency meeting into the matter. Later in a television interview, he disclosed that the virus was recently being used in the facility as part of a vaccine production run.

"What happened on the 16th of July, we now know, is that production was being done in the Merial factory using this strain of the vaccine," Mr. Brown said. "What we now know also is that the company has ceased production voluntarily. And we know also that the health and safety inspectors will be going in looking intensively at what's happening there to see not just about the source, but look at any transmission mechanism."

On Saturday, 60 head of cattle were slaughtered on the nearby farm where the foot-and-mouth outbreak took place. And while farmers across the country are being urged to be vigilant and a nationwide transportation ban remains in place for cattle, sheep and pigs, the prime minister says the local area near the town of Guildford will remain the primary region of attention.

Over the next few hours and few days, there will be more intensive work done in the local area. There will be more checking being done," he said. "We will have more intensive activity and i do apologize to people for that happening, but if we can control, contain and then eradicate the disease in that way, then that will be to the benefit of the whole country."

Britain's livestock sector was dealt a deadly blow in 2001 where the disease last appeared. Back then, nearly seven million animals were destroyed and it cost the rural economy around $17 billion in lost revenue.

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