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2001: Foot-and-mouth scare at UK abbatoir
A five-mile exclusion zone has been placed around an abbatoir in Essex after a suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease was detected.

If confirmed, this would be the first case of the disease in the UK for 20 years.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said the discovery was made during a "routine" inspection of the premises by the State Veterinary Service.

The exclusion zone will prevent the transport of pigs, sheeps, goats and cattle while an investigation is carried out.

At this stage 27 pigs are showing symptoms of the disease. It is understood the pigs were transported from two farms - one in Buckinghamshire and one in the Isle of Wight, where exclusion zones have also been set up.

'Very, very worrying'

Foot-and-mouth is a highly infectious viral disease which can affect cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. It is characterised by the development of blisters in the mouth causing increased salivation and lameness.

The last case of the disease was seen in Britain in 1981. The last major outbreak was in 1967 when 442,000 animals were slaughtered.

Farmers are now being urged to check their stock for signs of the disease, which include lameness and loss of appetite.

The Food Standards Agency said the outbreak, if confirmed, would have no implications on the food chain.

The Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown said if foot-and-mouth was confirmed it would be essential to contain the disease as quickly as possible.

Spokesperson for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), Peter Stewart, said: "Foot-and-mouth is one of the most devastating diseases in pigs and cattle.

"It's the speed of spread and the fact the entire herd has got to be completely wiped out. It's a very, very worrying disease."

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Exclusion zone
A five-mile exclusion zone has been placed around the abbatoir

In Context
Foot-and-mouth was confirmed at Cheale Abbatoir in Brentwood, Essex, by chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore, two days later.

The European Commission immediately banned all British milk, meat and livestock exports until the disease had been contained.

All 300 animals at the abbatoir were slaughtered in an attempt to control the outbreak but the spread of the disease across the UK was rapid and over the course of nearly a year more than 2,000 animals were diagnosed with foot-and-mouth.

In total nearly four million animals in the UK were slaughtered. The disease cost the farming industry between 800m and 2.4bn and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

The outbreak also brought devastation to much of the tourist industry and the rural economy. The Countryside Agency estimated the cost to tourism was between 2bn and 3bn.

The UK was declared foot-and-mouth free in January 2002. A Royal Society report into the outbreak, published in July 2002, said the policy of mass culling had not been enough to contain the disease and that vaccination should be considered in any future outbreak.

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