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Official Says No Signs of Foot and Mouth at British Farm, Theme Park


British authorities say preliminary tests for foot and mouth disease in livestock at a farm and theme park are negative.

Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds says that further test would be conducted to confirm that the animals did not have the disease.

On Tuesday, officials had put up a three kilometer temporary protection zone around the farm, in Kent, where a farmer suspected cases of the disease among cattle.

A similar protection zone was later established at theme park in Surrey located 30 miles outside of London after sheep began to display symptoms of the illness.

The sites were outside the original protection zone set up in Surrey during the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease reported earlier this month.

So far, about 600 animals have been destroyed to prevent the spread of the livestock disease.

Foot and mouth disease is not harmful to people. However, farmers are afraid of a repeat of the 2001 outbreak, when almost seven million animals were slaughtered, devastating Britain's agriculture industry.

Health investigators believe there is a strong possibility the latest outbreak started in a research laboratory close to the farms. One of the labs, the privately run Merial Animal Health laboratory, rejects the claim, and says there is no evidence the virus was transported out of its center by humans.

The disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cows and pigs and is spread mostly through direct contact between animals or through contaminated feed.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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