Consolidated F&MD Thread - 3/24-3/31 (Livestock - General) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Britain: Foot-and-Mouth Disease Is Out of Control Officials Unveil New Steps To Halt Spread

By Beth Gardiner .c The Associated Press

LONDON (March 23) - Admitting it has lost control of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, Britain announced drastic new steps to rein in the disease Friday, including a plan to cull livestock in a ''firewall'' around every infected farm.

''The situation is not under control at the moment,'' said David King, the government's chief scientist.

Experts said the number of infected sites, now 490, could rise to 4,000 by June, and the government said it was now considering vaccinating animals, despite fears such a move would devastate trade.

All livestock within two miles of infected farms everywhere in Britain are to be killed, King said. The widened culling was initially planned only for the worst-hit areas in northern England and southern Scotland.

He said British Prime Minister Tony Blair had asked for the so-called ''firewall cull'' and had told the team to speed up the killing to 24 hours from the time an infection is confirmed.

The number of infected sites could rise by 70 per day over the next two weeks, or nearly 1,000 sites, a report prepared for the Ministry of Agriculture said.

''It will grow fast in the next few weeks and continue for many months,'' said the report, written by a group of foot-and-mouth experts. ''The number of cases will rise steeply with rapid expansion in the existing areas in spite of current controls.''

Meanwhile, Ireland sent additional troops to County Louth, where the Irish Republic's first case of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed Thursday. The aim is to prevent the disease from moving beyond the county, which borders Northern Ireland.

The European Union said it will hold urgent talks with Japanese authorities, who have suspended pork imports from the EU.

France and Finland offered to send veterinarians to help Britain cope with the epidemic.

With more than 480,000 animals already slaughtered or condemned in Britain, this year's epidemic is now officially worse than a devastating 1967 outbreak, said Jim Scudamore, the government's chief veterinarian.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the disease had already cost Britain about $243 million, and the toll in lost livestock and meat trade could reach $815 million, said Robin Bell, head of the agriculture ministry's trade team.

Brown said he was taking a ''hard look'' at the possibility of vaccinating livestock as a way to slow the outbreak.

If Britain vaccinates, it must wait longer after the last vaccinated animals are slaughtered to export again than if it stamps out the disease without immunizing.

''I want to avoid vaccination if I can, but if it is necessary to bring the disease under control in a speedier way, then of course, I have a duty to consider it,'' Brown said. ''Vaccination could serve as a route to buy time.''

European Union veterinary experts agreed on Friday to allow the Netherlands to carry out a limited vaccination program around infected farms. They did not immediately specify the size of the area covered, but Dutch authorities had earlier spoken about vaccinating livestock within a 1,000-yard radius.

However, opposition to a wider inoculation campaign remained strong.

''The kind of vaccination that is being discussed will not be a general vaccination across Europe. That's out of the question. Nobody wants that,'' said Beate Gminder, public health spokeswoman for the European Commission.

That view was endorsed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

In Britain, National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said many of his group's members supported the newly widened slaughtering policy.

''It is better to take hard action now and save outbreaks later on,'' he said. But he warned that a two-mile kill zone does not guarantee the end of the epidemic.

''If you wanted (a risk-free policy), you would have to slaughter the whole country,'' he said.

AP-NY-03-23-01 1233EST

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 23, 2001


Britain faces mass livestock losses

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - Britain's foot-and-mouth epidemic could get 10 times worse and the government's chief scientist warned on Friday that half the country's livestock could be lost.

As the number of confirmed outbreaks topped 500, Professor David King said urgent action must be taken to stop the disease spiralling out of control.

Draconian measures have failed to stop foot-and-mouth crossing borders into Ireland, France and the Netherlands.

Ireland, which has called in the army to help contain the crisis, began slaughtering thousands more farm animals.

Japan extended a ban on imports of animals susceptible to foot-and- mouth to the whole of the European Union. It previously applied only to the four countries affected so far.

But in the Hague, the Dutch Agriculture Minister said exports of meat and dairy products might resume next week from provinces not affected by the three confirmed outbreaks in the Netherlands.

In London, however, leading scientists advising the government issued a dire prediction that the number of affected sites across Britain could rise nearly tenfold to more than 4,000 by June.

The British government's chief scientist said that in "a worst case scenario," foot-and-mouth disease could result in the loss of half the country's 62 million livestock.

King said animals should be slaughtered more quickly after they were found to have contracted foot-and-mouth.


"If we proceed as we are at the moment, the epidemic is out of control, and in the worst case scenario out of control means that we might even lose 50 percent of the livestock of Great Britain," King told BBC radio.

Official statistics estimate Britain has 44 million sheep and lambs, 11 million cattle and seven million pigs. About 300,000 cloven-hoofed animals have been slaughtered so far in the month-long outbreak.

"This will be a large epidemic, it will grow fast and it will continue for many months," said Dr Debby Reynolds, a scientist addressing a Ministry of Agriculture briefing.

Much of the country has already been sealed off, tourism is on its knees and there have been widespread calls for a general election widely expected on May 3 to be postponed.

"All the experts advised of the need for further drastic action to bring the disease under control," a ministry note said. "Otherwise foot-and-mouth will become established in Britain."

In Stockholm, where EU leaders are meeting, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said dealing with Britain's disastrous outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease would be long and hard.

"There's no disguising this is a serious problem. It's going to be a long haul...It's going to be difficult, it's going to take time," he told a news conference.

Blair signalled he might wait until the last minute before deciding whether to call elections on May 3 or hold back while he tackles the foot-and-mouth crisis.


Blair let slip his dilemma when a television microphone picked up his private conversation with European Commission President Romano Prodi, who asked how long he had before he had to make a decision on the timing of a general election.

"It's about 10 days," was Blair's reply.

In their advice to the British government, Imperial College in London, the University of Edinburgh and the Institute of Animal Health all proposed accelerating the present rate of slaughter.

"Speedier slaughter of infected animals will help to reduce transmission," the ministry note said.

"But this needs to be accompanied by immediate slaughter of all susceptible species around infected farms, otherwise the final number of cases will be very high."

Imperial College also suggested vaccinating animals. Britain has resisted using vaccination so far because allowing animals possibly carrying the virus to survive would mean Britain losing its disease- free status -- and its export markets.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said he was keeping all options open, including vaccination.

In Brussels, European Union veterinary experts authorised limited use of vaccines to help the Netherlands fight foot- and-mouth, but a widespread inoculation policy was ruled out.

When the first Dutch outbreak was confirmed on Wednesday, the government placed a total ban on animal and dairy exports.

But Agriculture Minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst told a news conference that Dutch provinces not been hit by foot-and-mouth might resume exports next week.

He added that shipments of animal feed and dairy produicts could resume outside the protected areas around the site where the disease had been found or was suspected.

13:51 03-23-01

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 23, 2001.

Ok what am I missing? Why not vaccinate?Fine they will test positive,it has already been said humans can not get it,so why not? If all stock gets vaccinated or gets the virus would'nt the virus be stopped?

-- renee oneill{md.} (, March 23, 2001.

You are missing the black mark of being designated a F&M carrier country. If they vaccinate they can't differentiate from infected sheep antibodies and vaccinated sheep antibodies so they are all assumed to have been infected. No export allowed then. Money driven decisions, not health driven.

-- Deborah (, March 23, 2001.

ok how about this one.....lets say the global community all deceided {i know it wont happen}that to be a carrier was ok,as long as no signs of the virus were present{open wounds},would that not solve this whole mess. Vaccinations then could be given and healthy stock would be saved,would the virus not stop? I thought small pox was "gotten rid of" because everyone was given the vaccine and no new cases showed up. I wonder if the population would be willing to except this as the norm.?

-- renee oneill{md.} (, March 23, 2001.

Ken I have a really dum question why is the sheep in VT and possible the cattle in TX have to be destroyed and then tested?. Is there not a test that could be done prior to destroying to find out if these animals are infected? This is something new to me and I am just trying to understand. Thanks.

-- Tracy in TN (, March 24, 2001.

It would be physically impossible to vaccinate every cloven animal (and the list is long, including hugh herds in Africa) for all seven known stains of F&MD. The vaccination only last from a couple of months to a year at most. Say every animal in at least Britian was routinely vaccinated for the current strain. A carrier comes in with another strain and here they go again. As noted, this is more of an economic-impact than animal disease. Imagine not being able to sell virtually any of your agricultural products outside your country. It would be about like a school system dumbing down class content to the level of the lowest achieving student.

While there are tests for scrapie in sheep, none exist for sheep for MCD/BSE except for examining the brain. Basically the brain is cut into thin slices and examined, plus through the use of an electron microscope looking for rogue proteins. Basically the USDA is not willing to take even the slightest change of MCD getting into the U.S. so any animal imported from Europe within a certain number of years will be killed and tested. My guess is every animal tested will come up negative - although don't expect the USDA to admit it.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 24, 2001.

This might be great news. A U.S. company is in the testing phase of a F&MD vaccine which doesn't use the actual virus, yet still provides immunity. Test results so far has been very promising. This would mean the animals would not carry the antibodies, so still could be sold for world trade. I saw it on CNN. Will try to get more information.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 24, 2001.

That is great news Ken, I didn't hear that on CNN yesterday morning. Now, let them put all their resources into it and hurry! Maybe they can air drop it to the wildlife in biscuits like they are doing with the rabies vaccine, grain cakes for the deer and elk.

I read they are going ahead with the additional slaughter, which suprised me, as they don't have the time to burn them. Seems alive would be safer than dead at this point. At least the carrion aren't attracted to them alive. Not even one should be left there rotting for the birds and dogs.

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 25, 2001.

It is probably more humane for the farmers to see their livestock hauled off live, than shot and left to rot in their fields or barnyards until disposal can be made.

Animal Remains Buried at Army Site

By SUE LEEMAN .c The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - As Britain struggled to keep up with the disposal of slaughtered livestock, the army started digging huge pits at an old air base on Sunday for the mass burial of up to 500,000 carcasses from the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Earthmovers scooped out huge trenches at an abandoned airfield at Great Orton in Cumbria county, northwest England, with more than 190 cases the region worst hit by the highly infectious disease.

Brigadier Alex Birtwistle, who is leading the operation, said the army was licensed to bury up to half a million animals in the mass grave.

``We have about 500,000 sheep to take out of farms live and bring to be slaughtered in the most humane way - it is an apocalyptic task,'' Birtwistle said.

The government has said Britain will slaughter nearly all livestock on farms adjacent to foot-and-mouth infection sites in an effort to contain the disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on Sunday confirmed 27 new cases of the disease, including more than a dozen in Cumbria, bringing the total to 597. Some scientists believe this could spiral to 4,000 by June.

In the Netherlands, government officials confirmed a new case of foot- and-mouth disease Sunday at a farm in the northeastern town of Oene in the province of Gelderland, bringing the number of infected farms in that country to five.

Dutch health officials on Monday will begin vaccinating animals at farms where foot-and-mouth is suspected, after receiving approval from the European Union on Friday.

France last week reported its second case of the disease and Argentina has identified 55 cases, while Ireland has one case of the disease, which strikes cloven-hoofed animals like sheep, pigs and cows.

Britain's Environment Agency, which approved the Cumbria site, said it has investigated more than 180 areas to find acceptable places for such large-scale culling. The main problem in Cumbria was to avoid polluting ground water, which provides water supplies in large areas.

Jane Brown, director of operations at the Agriculture Ministry, said as soon as the Cumbrian pit is ready ``we will use it to bury some of the bodies that have already been slaughtered on farms that we haven't been able to dispose of.

``Then we will begin bringing live sheep here from around the edges of the very infected areas around Penrith,'' for slaughter and burial, she explained.

The Environment Agency was assessing the suitability of a second area for slaughtering and burying sheep, Brown said.

The aim was to catch up with the backlog of carcasses and to begin creating the ``firebreak'' Prime Minister Tony Blair has described, to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Another large cull was scheduled for Tuesday in Anglesey, Wales. About 40,000 livestock within a 50-square-mile area of southwest Anglesey were scheduled to be slaughtered.

An Agriculture Ministry spokesman described the ``contiguous culling'' plan as a formalization of an existing unofficial policy, and said veterinarians would make sure animals were at risk before slaughtering them. More than half a million livestock have been killed or are awaiting slaughter.

Algeria, Qatar and Israel on Sunday joined other nations in banning meat and livestock imports from countries affected by the disease.

AP-NY-03-25-01 1345EST

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 25, 2001.

Yet another wedge between England and Ireland.

Men in white coats drive Irish farmers to despair

By Elizabeth Piper

COOLEY PENINSULA, Ireland, March 25 (Reuters) - Dozens of farmers pace up and down a country lane, swearing under their breath as they wait for an explanation and for some hope that their community might be saved.

The village, about 10 km (six miles) from a farm where Ireland's first cases of foot-and-mouth disease were found, was woken up at midnight on Saturday when "men in white coats" arrived to say they were taking a flock of sheep to the slaughterhouse.

"Last night at midnight, the men in white coats arrived. They got us out of bed and told us they were taking the sheep out to be slaughtered," the son of the affected family said, as he looked at the empty paddock across the road.

He cannot talk for long. Other farmers in this village of seven livestock farms take over the story, allowing the family time to try to find out answers from the police.

The village is in a small corner of Cooley Peninsula, just across the border from disease-hit Northern Ireland.

"This family has been badly treated," said Joe Bothwell, an older farmer in a flat cap and wax jacket.

"They think the family had bought the sheep from Northern Ireland, when they haven't. They're just going on word of mouth. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone."

Ireland is desperate to find the source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, unsure whether the highly infectious disease spread from a farm in Northern Ireland on the wind or from sheep smuggled in across the border. They are checking all farms for sheep from the north, but it is difficult to prove.

"We are still intensively investigating the source of the infection," Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh told Irish radio.

Police checkpoints stop cars before travelling to the tiny piece of land that juts into the Irish sea, disinfecting tyres and checking that meat is not being brought in or taken out.

Disinfectant-soaked straw and bits of carpet are strewn outside the many farms, where signs tell all visitors to keep out. But the precautions have failed to save many sheep.

"They've cut our throats, we've lost our livelihoods. We'll soon be sleeping on the streets," the sheep farmer's brother said.

His friends give him a pat on his back as he stalks off to telephone the ministry to see about getting compensation.

"It's the same as if there were a death in every family in the area," Bothwell said.

Gaelic football grounds are chained up and entrances to livestock markets are sealed off with fluorescent yellow tape with the words "caution" repeated many times.

The words on grey-stone farms are the same: "No entry."

The farmers are clear who they blame for the disease.

"We're not to blame, we've done everything we can do," one farmer says. "The English are the scourge of the world."

Britain on Sunday stepped up measures to tackle its foot-and-mouth outbreak as the number of infected sites there rose towards 600.

Junior Irish ministers have criticised Britain's handling of the crisis, accusing London of inadequate control measures that have allowed the disease to spread like wildfire.

11:20 03-25-01

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 26, 2001.

(Nah, F&MD isn't something for a homesteader to worry about. After all, I just have a couple of goats and two feeder pigs. Well, do you live within a couple of miles of anyone else who raises cloven animals? If they get F&MD, you are probably going to lose your critters. How easily could it be introduced into the U.S? I didn't see the program, but my brother-in-law told me about a report he saw which showed how much prohibited food items travelers entering the U.S. try to get past customs. Apparently all it would take is for someone to smuggle in F&MD-tainted meat (such as smoked sausage) or cheese made from unpasturized milk and raw or undercooked scraps from it fed to a hog. It is believe the outbreak in Britian was started by a farmer feeding undercooked garbage to his hogs.)

March 26, 2001

Some Say U.S. Lags in Blocking Foot-and-Mouth Disease


WASHINGTON, March 25 With foot-and-mouth disease spreading into a fourth European country last week, there is growing concern that the United States has not done enough to block the disease at the border and that should it invade here, America would be hard pressed to stamp it out.

If the worst should happen, independent experts and officials say, a failure to exclude the disease or to stop any invasion quickly could devastate American food production and international agricultural trade.

In the last two years, the Department of Agriculture has reported 18 emergency outbreaks of foreign plant and animal diseases in the United States, a startling increase from the previous average of one or two a year.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the government was seeking to balance its support for the forces of globalization and the need to protect its $50 billion meat industry. "You've got to be able to protect your infrastructure, your farms and ranches, without being seen as creating trade barriers," Ms. Veneman said in an interview last week. "Clearly with this strain of virulent foot-and-mouth disease we're completely justified in the measures we've taken."

Last week, as Ireland followed Britain, France and the Netherlands in confirming the blight's spread, American officials voiced confidence in a series of measures aimed at keeping it overseas. The Agriculture Department has set up an emergency hot line to give advice on foot- and- mouth disease, halted the importation of meat and meat products from the European Union and placed ports of entry on heightened alert.

The department has also added inspectors at airports and border posts and deployed teams of beagles to sniff out hidden meats being brought in by travelers. And, Ms. Veneman said, she has sent 40 scientists to assist in the Europeans' containment efforts and provide her office with daily updates.

Still, some agriculture experts and livestock industry representatives say those steps are not enough. They express fears that the Agriculture Department has nothing close to the resources it needs to protect America's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs. The experience of northern Europe, which despite its expensive and sophisticated surveillance and tracking systems has failed to contain the disease, has worried many who had once felt safe.

"Quite frankly the department needs much more resources at all borders, and the White House needs to think about this as a threat to our national economic security," said Dan Glickman, the secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton.

Even ranchers and farmers who are generally supportive of the Department of Agriculture's efforts warn that American ports and borders are too porous. "The U.S.D.A. is doing a commendable job with its resources, but no, it's not what ought to be done," said Beth Lautner, vice president for science and technology at the National Pork Producers Council. "We have a good safety net around our country, but what's very disconcerting is that the U.K. has a good one, too, and is overwhelmed by the disease."

Britain, which produces vaccines for other nations fighting foot-and- mouth disease, had not had an outbreak since 1967. It has ordered the slaughter of more than 400,000 cows, sheep and pigs, and has still not been able to contain the virus. Last week British government experts predicted that the crisis would continue to grow for months.

Other critics assert that the entire American strategy is too passive, because the war is lost if the disease ever reaches American herds. As in Britain, a severe outbreak here would probably require the government to kill vast numbers of livestock and to quarantine farms, driving up food prices, disrupting transportation and upsetting consumers.

"This policy of wait and see is clearly insufficient," said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader. Mr. Daschle has called for a full moratorium on the importation of all livestock and meat products from all countries.

To Ms. Veneman, that would be the first shot in a disastrous trade war that could ultimately hurt all kinds of American food and farm exports, valued at $59 billion a year, including $4.5 billion a year of meat. "With 96 percent of the world population living outside the U.S., we have to have those markets abroad," she said. "As the economy becomes more global, so too does the food system."

The livestock industry would be at immediate risk. The foot-and-mouth virus afflicts cloven-hoofed animals and generally reduces their ability to gain weight and produce milk. It is not harmful to people, even if they eat diseased meat. It is spread by direct or indirect contact with infected animals. The disease is endemic in every continent, except North America, Australia and Antarctica.

In theory the threat posed by the European outbreak is no greater than threats from infected animals in parts of Argentina, say, or Korea. But the high volume of tourism and trade between the United States and European countries makes that outbreak more serious here.

In addition, the rise of immigration to the United States from regions where foot-and-mouth is entrenched, especially South America and Asia, has increased the risk of its introduction here, as travelers return with food or other traces from diseased animals.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, warned in 1997 that these pressures were forcing inspectors to take shortcuts that "raise questions about the efficiency and the overall effectiveness of these inspections."

Rather than earmark more money for agricultural protection, President Bush cut next year's budget for the Agriculture Department by 7 percent. Ms. Veneman said that she would maintain the same spending level for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, her agency's main protection office, but that there were no plans for a substantial increase in its budget.

The United States brings considerable experience to fighting the disease. After six outbreaks in the last century, it set about eradicating the blight from North America. In 1947, Washington led a quasi-military campaign in Mexico and pushed the disease south of Panama. In 1954, the federal government established a secure research facility at Plum Island, off Long Island, to develop vaccines. The last outbreak of foot-and- mouth disease in the United States was in 1929.

In recent years, the government also established the National Animal Health Emergency Management System, a network of industry, state and federal veterinary groups and the Department of Agriculture. Last year, the network held a military- style exercise based on the scenario of an outbreak in Texas that simulated the task of identifying, isolating and killing infected animals, then burning or burying their carcasses.

"We had to have pre-emptive slaughters, a scorched-earth policy taking out herds in front of the disease," said Ms. Lautner of the pork council, who took part in the exercise. "It's a containment policy, building a buffer between infected and clean herds."

But the United States Animal Health Association, an independent group led by state veterinarians, predicts trouble if there is an outbreak. In a 1998 report, the group warned that the first cases could be misdiagnosed because producers are unfamiliar with the disease; that producers and politicians might resist the slaughter of apparently healthy exposed herds; and that the high density of animals in huge dairies and feedlots might exacerbate the disease's spread.

Joe Annelli, head of emergency services for the animal and plant inspection service, counters that his agency is ready. He has stationed 450 foreign animal disease specialists around the country, who can reach any farm in the continental United States by car in four hours or less.

Mass vaccination is viewed by scientists and livestock producers as a last resort, because the vaccines are not foolproof.

Testing for the disease is limited to the remote Plum Island laboratory, the only site in the United States where live virus can be used. All suspected tissue has to be examined on Plum Island, a procedure that critics say costs precious time.

Because of limits on the use of live virus, there is a ban on the production of the vaccine in the United States, which puts the country at the mercy of foreign producers. Dennis Steadman, head of North American operations for Merial Ltd., which agriculture officials say has the contract to produce vaccine in case of a United States emergency, said he was skeptical that his company could ramp up production in time.

"I'd be surprised," Mr. Steadman said. "Just the sheer size of the livestock population in the U.S. would be a tremendous leap in volume."

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 26, 2001.

(On problem with vaccinations is they take about two weeks to become effective. In the meantime livestock is still susceptible. On the political aspect, Blair had called for general elections on May 3rd, since his Labour Party is well ahead in the polls and an election then would likely increase his party's strength in their Parliment. Concern is people coming in from the countryside to vote may further spread the disease, and, with any delay, the Labour Party may lose support. Widespread vaccinations is basically throwing in the towel for the export of livestock and most meat and dairy products.)

Britain Considers Disease Vaccine

By JILL LAWLESS .c The Associated Press LONDON (AP) - Determined to stem the tide of foot-and-mouth, the British government said Tuesday it may reverse a long-held policy and vaccinate livestock against the disease.

``A few days ago even, this was generally regarded as anathema to very large parts of the farming community,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

``As you track the disease and see how it spreads, things that may have seemed utterly unpalatable a short time ago have to be on the agenda,'' he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The government has sought to avoid vaccination because it would keep other nations' doors shut to livestock exports. But with the number of confirmed cases in Britain at 634, the government is increasingly desperate to halt the spread of the disease - and salvage elections.

``There are difficult questions there and a lot of divided opinions,'' about vaccination, Blair said. ``But, yes, we keep it under review. And it's something we'd like to sit down and discuss with farmers' leaders.''

On Monday, contractors supervised by the army began burying thousands of slaughtered sheep in a pit on a disused airfield in Cumbria, the northwestern English county worst hit by the outbreak. Thousands of apparently healthy animals are to be slaughtered in a bid to create a ``firebreak'' around heavily infected sites.

Across the border in Scotland, authorities said Monday they had chosen a burial site for more than 200,000 sheep carcasses. Another mass grave for up to 40,000 sheep was being dug on the island of Anglesey in Wales.

Brig. Alex Birtwhistle, who is leading the campaign in Cumbria, said the army was licensed to bury up to half a million animals in the mass grave and was considering up to five further sites in England should the crisis intensify.

Conservative politicians have become increasingly critical of the government's performance in dealing with the livestock disease, and have urged Blair to postpone the national election widely expected on May 3. Postponement would suit the Conservatives, who are far behind in opinion polls.

``The message from across the country about the use of the army, the speed of slaughter and carrying out the cull is to the government: stop dithering and get on with it,'' said Conservative Party leader William Hague. He called for a ``crisis Cabinet'' of department ministers, an idea rejected by Blair.

Foot-and-mouth disease is harmless to humans, but the fast-spreading virus is dreaded by the livestock industry because of the potential economic damage. The disease is fatal to young livestock and harms the development of older ones. The United States has been free of the disease since 1929.

Belgium, which has so far escaped the virus, on Tuesday was investigating a suspected case on a cattle farm.

On Monday, Russia banned imports of meat and dairy products from the European Union and the Baltic states. And Norway extended a ban on most meat and livestock imports from other European countries.

China announced it was barring imports of cloven-hoofed animals from Ireland and the Netherlands, which both confirmed cases of the disease last week. Farmers in Canada expressed concern about the potential risk from more than 3,000 British soldiers who are due to arrive for training over the next few months.

AP-NY-03-27-01 0234EST

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 27, 2001.

Ken: What is the incubation period for this disease? In other words, could some herds here already be infected but not yet showing symptoms? And can the virus be carried on the smoke from burning the carcases? (like when burning poison ivy?) Just wondering.

-- Sylvia (, March 27, 2001.

From my readings, the incubation period is a maximum of two weeks. However, you might put an infected animal in with a healthy herd and they show signs quickly.

Apparently the F&MD virus is fairly easy to kill. Smoke from funeral pyres would not contain it. Poison ivy is an oil, not a virus.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 27, 2001.

Guess I ought to post article under this thread also.

Vermont Sheep Are Killed in Iowa The Associated Press Tuesday, March 27, 2001; 8:32 p.m. EST

AMES, Iowa All 260 Vermont sheep suspected of having been exposed to a form of mad cow disease have been killed, and tissue samples were being tested Tuesday at a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinary laboratory.

Before the flocks were sent to Iowa, four sheep tested positive in Vermont for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE, a family of diseases that includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and scrapie, a common sheep disease that doesn't affect humans.

Scientists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory here said they were running a series of blood and tissue tests on the carcasses. They said they would know within two or three months how many of the sheep were carrying TSE.

The East Friesian milking sheep, seized from two farms in Vermont, were imported before an epidemic of mad cow disease prompted a ban on European livestock in 1997. The animals were thought to have been exposed to contaminated feed.

An epidemic of mad cow disease devastated the British beef industry in the 1990s. Nearly 100 people in Europe have died of a human form of BSE since 1995, but no cases have been confirmed in the United States.

The USDA also said Tuesday it was tracking a handful of cattle imported from Britain before the 1997 ban. None of the animals had shown any illness, said USDA spokesman Jim Rogers.

"It's my understanding they are going to be bought and destroyed, but none of them have ever entered the human or animal food chain," said Ed Curlett, a USDA spokesman.

-- Lynn Goltz (, March 28, 2001.

My biggest fear of hoof and mouth is it's so easy to transfer the disease; might HSUS or P.E.T.A. spread the disease here.

-- ~Rogo (, March 28, 2001.

March 28, 2001

Americans OK With Beef Despite News


Filed at 1:36 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans love their beef.

They spent a record $52 billion on the red meat in 2000 and ate 70 pounds of it per person. Although concern about livestock diseases in Europe has grown in recent weeks, Americans apparently aren't ready to ignore their cravings for a juicy T-bone just yet.

``I have great faith in the USDA,'' said Gordon Harvey, 65, of Arlington, Va., who bought some bacon, a pork roast and a steak at the bustling Eastern Market near the U.S. Capitol before heading to the poultry counter.

But, ``I wouldn't hesitate to stop buying meat altogether if I thought it was dangerous.''

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Tuesday there are no signs yet that Americans are shunning beef, although they are confusing foot- and-mouth disease with the much rarer and more dangerous mad cow disease.

Mad cow disease has never been found in the United States, officials say. But inspectors for the U.S. Department of Agriculture seized hundreds of imported sheep from two Vermont farms last week -- the first such action against any U.S. farm animals -- fearing they may be infected with a version of mad cow.

Officials are also eyeing more than two dozen imported cows in Minnesota, Texas and Vermont for signs of the disease, which is linked to a brain-wasting illness in humans.

Foot-and-mouth disease, which is harmless to humans but can be spread by them, was last in the United States in 1929.

Unless one of those diseases hits the United States, consumers are unlikely to change their beef eating habits, some say.

``That fact is, it's not here,'' said Chuck Levitt, a meat analyst with Alaron Trading Corp. of Chicago. ``The American people by and large still feel we have the safest food supply on the planet and by and large we do.''

Farmers fear the economic consequences of foot-and-mouth more than the disease itself, as infected pigs, sheep and cows lose their appetite and stop growing and producing milk.

The fast-spreading disease struck Britain in mid-February and has touched France, the Netherlands and Ireland. Argentina also is contending with a new outbreak.

Britain says it has lost $240 million and the toll in lost trade and livestock -- which are being destroyed in an effort to contain the spread -- could approach $1 billion.

The United States has banned meat imports from 15 European countries and Argentina until the outbreak is brought under control. U.S. consumers could face higher beef prices at neighborhood butcher shops, grocery stores and restaurants as a result.

``If England doesn't have any meat, they're going to have to buy it from somewhere,'' said Tony Heath, owner of Quality Cash Market in Concord, N.H. ``They're probably going to buy it from us, and we have just so much, so all prices will rise because of the limited supply.''

Chuck Boppell, president and chief executive officer of the Sizzler chain of steakhouse restaurants said, ``We're seeing the prices on the futures market just go crazy.'' Contracts for certain cuts of beef, for future delivery, have risen by half, he said.

This comes as beef consumption has been on the upswing after years of decline.

A record $52 billion was spent on beef last year, up from $48.7 billion in 1999, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says.

Americans also ate 69.5 pounds of beef per person last year, reflecting steady but modest increases since 1993, when consumption fell to 65.1 pounds. Even so, Americans ate more chicken last year, 82.1 pounds.

Even the recall last year of nearly 3 million pounds of ground beef and beef products because of possible contamination with dangerous E. coli and listeria bacteria didn't seem to affect U.S. beef-eating habits, Levitt said.

He predicted the jittery economy and rising fuel prices would influence beef consumption more than the outbreaks of animal disease overseas.

Still, mad cow disease worries people, with nearly two-thirds of Americans concerned about it becoming a problem in the United States, says the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll.

Fewer than half of respondents had expressed concern about the disease in an ABC News-Washington Post poll in mid-January.

``I haven't considered it, but if I traveled to other places I'd be concerned about it,'' said Sylvester Copeland, 64, an Army veteran who enjoys a good ``half smoke'' sausage. He bought six at Eastern Market, a short walk from his senior citizens' home.

Comparing meat prices at the Washington market, Brenda Bunting of Haleiwa, Hawaii, said she'll worry when, or if, the disease is confirmed in the United States.

``Then I will think it's only a matter of time before it reaches me in Hawaii,'' she said.


On the Net: National Cattlemen's Beef Association:

U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service:

American Meat Institute:

(I rather doubt England would look to the U.S. to supply meat, but rather other EU nations, due to transportation costs.)

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 28, 2001.

Cause of Epidemic Still Practiced

By PHILIP BRASHER .c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Feeding food scraps to hogs, the practice now blamed for Europe's foot-and-mouth epidemic, is still legal in 33 states and Puerto Rico even though improperly cooked pig swill long has been recognized as a sure way to spread disease.

The last U.S. outbreak of foot-and-mouth in 1929 occurred when scraps of South American meat were taken off a ship and fed to hogs in California. Experts say that improper swill-feeding is one of the most likely ways foot-and-mouth could return.

``That's my biggest concern,'' said Terry Conger, state epidemiologist with the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Europe's outbreak has been traced by British officials to pig swill that likely contained meat imported illegally or food smuggled by a traveler. ``International travelers are always bringing sausage and whatnot they acquire in foreign countries,'' Conger said.

Britain and Ireland are outlawing swill feeding as a result of the outbreak, and the European Union is being pressed by several member countries to impose an EU-wide ban.

About 2,700 farmers are licensed under U.S. law, including 1,300 in Puerto Rico, to feed discarded food to hogs. Federal rules require the swill to be cooked for 30 minutes to kill any pathogens.

All food waste from international flights and ocean liners must be incinerated to prevent infected meat from reaching livestock. Also, meat items are routinely confiscated from arriving passengers.

The Agriculture Department recently advised states to contact every licensed farm within a month to ensure they are following the cooking and record keeping rules.

``We feel confident that this program is effective,'' said Alfonso Torres, deputy administrator of veterinary services for the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. ``We want to be sure that everyone is aware of what they need to do once more.''

Foot-and-mouth is harmless to humans, but an outbreak can be devastating to livestock producers. The virus spreads so quickly and easily that the only sure way to contain it is to destroy all exposed livestock.

The biggest swill-feeding producers, located in New Jersey and Nevada, raise thousands of pigs on waste food collected from their state's casinos. The Texas prison system raises hogs on scraps from inmate meals.

``We do everything to state and federal regulations,'' said Robert Shisler, a licensed New Jersey producer who otherwise declined to discuss his operation.

But most of the licensed producers are small-scale farmers, often poor, who raise a handful of hogs, often on household scraps, government officials say. In addition to Puerto Rico, the largest number are in Texas, Arkansas and Florida.

Fewer than 100 farmers are caught violating the licensing rules annually, according to the Agriculture Department.

Altogether, 50,000 of the nation's 100 million hogs are fed food scraps. Most hogs are raised on feed that is a mixture of soybean meal, grain and dietary supplements.

The Agriculture Department requires swill-feeding producers to be inspected at least quarterly, but some states require such checks more often. Texas, which has 613 such farmers, inspects them monthly.

Foot-and-mouth is not the only disease that can be transmitted through swill. A 1995 Agriculture Department study found that improperly cooked food waste was even more likely to expose hogs to campylobacter, salmonella, toxoplasma, trinchinella and hog cholera.

The trichinae parasite, which can be transmitted to humans through infected meat, has been virtually eliminated from U.S. pork because of regulations on swill feeding.

The study identified household waste as the food source most likely to transmit foreign disease pathogens to swine because such waste is more likely to contain contraband meat.

When the United States, Canada and Mexico conducted a mock outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease last fall to test the readiness of animal- health officials, the fictional epidemic started with a swill-feeding producer in south Texas. Had the outbreak been real, it would have spread through Texas in days, officials said.

Texas has not banned pig swill, or ``garbage feeding,'' as it is known in the industry, for fear of driving the producers underground, where they cannot be monitored by the government, Conger said.

``It's very difficult to control. We don't have officers prowling the roads looking for garbage feeders,'' he said.

On the Net: Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service:

Texas Animal Health Commission:

British government's foot-and-mouth site:

(The primary reason the British believe their current outbreak started with swill feeding is it is an Asian strain, first identified in India in 1990. They noted it may have been brought in an illegal shipment of imported meat or from food carried by an arriving passenger which slipped past customs.)

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 29, 2001.

Now they have deceided that burning the animals might spread the disese, I think we all here could have told them that. Look for the groundwater to be polluted next, as they allready banned burying of animals before because of this problem. It's just so awful over there, no way to stop what they have started, and the smoke has probably gone around the world at least once.

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 29, 2001.

Charlotte Denny and Michael White Friday March 30, 2001 The Guardian

The government might be forced to bring in milk rationing within months unless it takes action now to vaccinate the entire national dairy herd against the spread of foot and mouth, a leading Labour peer warned yesterday. Many of Britain's dairy farms are close to the worst centres of the epidemic, in Devon, Cumbria and the West Midlands. Lord Haskins, the chairman of Northern Foods, warned that if the disease were to take hold on dairy farms, milk shortages were inevitable because fresh supplies cannot easily be imported. So far, more than 100 of Britain's 22,000 dairy herds have been marked for slaughter.

"The government should give serious consideration to vaccinating the entire dairy herd now," he said. "If the government's worst-case scenarios are correct, there will be rationing within two months."

The warning came as William Hague appealed for Tony Blair to "put country before party" and postpone the general election beyond May. It also emerged yesterday that the supply of drugs for the lethal injection of young animals that need to be culled are running out.

A decision on whether to vaccinate cattle as part of the "firebreak" strategy is expected in the next few days. Britain won European Union permission this week to begin a limited vaccination programme but so far it is restricted to 180,000 dairy cattle in Cumbria and Devon.

Vaccination would destroy the live export trade but Lord Haskins said it would be preferable to running short of milk. But he warned it would pose a new set of difficulties for the industry because once vaccinated, cows could still be disease reservoirs. "You would have to ban the sale of unpasteurised milk because that could spread the virus," he said. "This is nothing like as simple as people think it is."

Implementing a programme of mass vaccination of dairy herds would mean accepting that foot and mouth is endemic in the UK.

The National Farmers Union rejected Lord Haskins' fears that milk supplies could be disrupted. They said that so far, of the 14bn litres of milk Britain produces annually, just 100m litres have been lost because of the slaughter programme. "At this stage it is too early to say that we are going to run short of milk," the NFU said.

Half the annual milk quota is used for other dairy products and the NFU said this could be diverted to fresh milk if supplies ran short.

Lord Haskins' warning is a blow to the government's hopes that it has the epidemic under control and can proceed with its plans for a May election. A majority of the cabinet wants May 3. And ministers and party officials who are urging an early election will argue that the threat of milk shortages illustrates that delay will only create further problems.

Tony Blair will spend the weekend considering the options, with some MPs claiming that he feels uncomfortable at the prospect of campaigning while the animal slaughter mounts. He is also anxious about committing himself to fighting on two fronts, electoral and foot and mouth, at once.

Though Labour backbenchers are divided the dominant view of senior ministers such as John Prescott and party officials at Millbank is to go now, even though they know the finely balanced judgment is Mr Blair's alone. Privately, one Tory ex-cabinet heavyweight said: "He'd be mad to delay."

The prime minister is expected to gather his closest political intimates, including Gordon Brown, Jonathan Powell, chief of staff, and Alastair Campbell, press secretary, at Chequers on Sunday to decide between May 3 and June 7 - the only real options.

"The word now is that Tony says he won't feel comfortable out there on the stump campaigning normally," one well-placed MP said.

In his first interview on American television since the crisis broke Mr Blair told NBC: "There is no reason why your average American tourist or one from any other part of the world cannot come here and have exactly the same holiday as they have always had."

Millbank is poised to start the campaign next week, though slower than once planned. Mr Blair may stay in No 10 for most of the next two weeks, leaving Mr Brown to take the campaign lead.

Mr Hague said: "I wouldn't have an election at this point to date. That would be putting party before country. I would be concentrating on fighting this disease, not the election."

SOUNDS LIKE ALL FUN AND GAMES OVER THERE!!! Anyone keeping track of the North Carolina thing??

-- diane (, March 30, 2001.

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