4 July 2001
King warns on virus security
By Isabel Davies
THE governments chief scientist has again suggested that poor biosecurity measures are to blame for continuing outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.
Professor David King told journalists that his interpretation of the available data was that biosecurity measures have been relaxed.
He said: “If they had been in place as they had been before, I have no doubt they [the number of cases] would be significantly lower then they are.”
Prof King denied he was blaming farmers for spreading the disease, which is still raging in isolated clusters around the country.
There are currently five hotspot areas – Penrith; Settle; North Devon and Somerset; Northallerton; and Powys in Wales.
“I wouldnt pick out any part of the community for criticism,” he said at a briefing in London on Wednesday (4 July).
Beating the disease will require everyone involved in livestock activities to put in a “last big push”, he added.
The scientists comments came as the government released a new advice video for farmers explaining steps they can take to avoid spreading the disease.
The video, which will be sent to over 85,000 livestock farmers in England, sets out eight precautions that producers should be taking.
It stresses that no-one can afford to drop their guard.
It warns the disease is difficult to spot in sheep and may go undetected, so it is important to check stock regularly.
The video also outlines how farmers can help to keep themselves and their farms disease-free by rigorously cleaning clothes and vehicles.
Animal welfare minister Elliot Morley dismissed suggestions that the video should have been made when the disease first appeared.
“At the height of the epidemic we didnt have the resources to send out a video to all farmers,” he admitted.
“We are in the tail end of foot-and-mouth, but there is danger that, as cases decline, people will be tempted to drop their guard.”
National Farmers Union president Ben Gill agreed that it was important to remind people that they could not let their guard drop yet.
“The tail of this disease is proving very stubborn but, if we cannot get it beaten by the autumn, then we will be in very serious trouble,” he said.
“There is simply no other way to stop it spreading than for everyone – from farmers themselves to the postmen that deliver their mail – to keep up their guard.
“The points on this video may seem obvious but, after so many months of maintaining this tortuous regime, we all need to be reminded.”
However, Mr Gill admitted that some of the measures needed were time-consuming and expensive and fitted in badly with trying to run a business.
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