Foot-and-mouth disease has appeared again in Britain, six years after it sparked the widespread slaughter of about seven million cows throughout the country in an effort to contain the outbreak. For VOA, Tom Rivers in London reports on this new case.
Just the mention of foot-and-mouth leaves many British farmers with a chill.
They know the severe impact the outbreak had in 2001 on rural communities and the billions it cost in lost revenues.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on vacation when news of the outbreak came, but he returned Saturday to London, where he made a televised statement about government efforts to contain the disease.
"We will be doing, night and day, everything in our power to make sure that what happens, happens quickly and happens decisively in a way that can reassure people that everything is being done," he said.
The disease was discovered on a farm near the town of Guildford, southwest of London. Sixty cattle were culled there Saturday. The action was much quicker than in 2001, when critics said the slow response by the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair allowed the virus to spread.
A three-kilometer exclusion zone has been established around the affected farm as well as a ten-kilometer surveillance area.
The transportation of cattle, sheep and pigs has also been banned in Britain, and the European Union has imposed a ban on livestock imports from Britain in response to the outbreak. The United States and Japan have banned British pigs and pork products. British beef is already banned in the U.S. because of mad-cow disease.
Cabinet Minister Ed Miliband expressed sympathy for Britain's farmers.
"That is automatically imposed as a result of the finding of foot-and-mouth disease," he said. "That is obviously very worrying for many farmers in this country and obviously our thoughts are with them today."
Foot-and-mouth disease affects animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep. An investigation into the specific strain of the disease has been launched to determine its origin.
Microbiologist Hugh Pennington says learning that quickly is absolutely crucial.
"Has this virus seeded itself anywhere in the country for example? It would be very important to find out where the virus has come from," he explained. "There are lots of different ways through which that can be done, for example fingerprinting the virus to find out whether it is a South American virus or a virus from Asia for example."
Mr. Brown has promised a major effort to fight the spread of the disease. Given the incubation period of the virus, it should be known within the next week whether efforts to isolate it have been successful.