Foot and mouth checks are being made on further possible outbreaks, beyond the village of Wanborough in Surrey, where 64 cattle were humanely destroyed earlier this afternoon.

 

The latest development follows a day of swift action by DEFRA, covered as it happened by FWi and summarised, with detailed links, in our special report.

 

Government chief vet Debby Reynolds has also asked for biosecurity arrangements at the nearby Pirbright Laboratory to be investigated as a possible source of the outbreak. 

 

A friend of the farmer involved says he is “absolutely devastated”. DEFRA has said it is investigating a number of further suspect cases, some of which have proven negative, but results for others are awaited.

 

It is moving swiftly, with tests also underway to establish where the infection came from and the strain of virus involved. The information will help DEFRA decide whether to vaccinate to contain the outbreak.

 

“It is a big blow to have it back in the UK, but our objective is to eradicate this outbreak and to implement the lessons learned from 2001,” Dr Reynolds told Farmers Weekly this afternoon.

 

Lorries have removed the carcasses from Wanborough, following disinfection, for incineration. Sheep on the farm are also being checked. A 3km protection zone is in place, with a further 10km surveillance zone.

 

All farmers are being encouraged to check livestock for symptoms and to take appropriate actions to safeguard the biosecurity of their farms. Detailed advice is available on the DEFRA web-site.

 

NFU director general Richard MacDonald urged farmers to respect the movement ban. “We know from 2001 that working hard from the outset to prevent spread of the disease is the key to controlling it.” 

 

The movement ban on all sheep, cattle and pigs will remain in place for 28 days, with a resulting hefty impact on business now considered to be inevitable.

 

Exports of animals and animal products have been halted, following an automatic ban imposed across the EU. Shipments already underway are subject to individual decisions, some countries returning the shipment, others possibly accepting them.

 

The ban on exports will last for a minimum of three months from the time the UK is declared free of the disease, unless the can be shown to be an isolated incident, so the ban could be treated regionally.

 

A DEFRA licence permits the movement of cows from one part of a farm premises to another part of the same premises using a public highway for the purpose of milking, provided that any animal excreta is removed from the part of the highway used immediately after the movement is completed.

 

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who returned from holiday in Dorset to head an emergency meeting of the Cobra ministerial committee, stressed: “I want to do everything in our power immediately to get to the scientific evidence, to look at the source of what has happened to set up a number of inquiries so that we can actually move very quickly, I mean within hours and days, [on] what has actually happened, and then to eradciate this disease in Britain.

 

“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.” 

 

Shows across the UK have been grappling with the movement restriction. But farmers contacted by Farmers Weekly have universally supported DEFRA’s swift action. 

 

For more detailed advice see DEFRA’s fact sheet Biosecurity – Preventing the introduction and the spread of foot and mouth disease (PDF).

Other useful links:

Defra’s helpline: 08459 335577