26 October 2001

Anthrax tests made tighter

GOVERNMENT officials have started testing dead livestock for anthrax in a tightening of procedures after outbreaks of the disease in the US.

Northumbrian farmer Peter Walton was shocked when DEFRA told him not to touch or move a cow found dead on his Northumberland farm. The cow was tested for anthrax before a licence was issued for the animals collection.

He said "I rang in only to see if I needed a vets certificate, but I was told to ring my own vet and stay away from the carcass. I cant fill the licence in until I know where the animal is going and I cant do that until it has been tested and hopefully cleared."

Mr Waltons vet Iain Carrington, from Hexham, said DEFRA officials were stepping up anthrax tests. "All unexplained sudden deaths should have an anthrax investigation. Over the years many farmers have forgotten this and these carcasses were frequently collected by the hunt kennels," he said.

There have been no anthrax cases in Britain since 1997. But the government believes animals could act as an early warning system for any attacks on humans which have a longer incubation period. A DEFRA spokeswoman said: "There are very isolated incidents and our aim as always is to contain and control it." &#42