News 524 views last update:Aug 7, 2007

Lab biosecurity not the cause of FMD outbreak

There is nothing wrong with the laboratory's biosecurity measures, according to Professor Martin Shirley from the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright. He was speaking after the government revealed the strain of foot and mouth disease identified in Surrey, Southern England last week was strongly linked to a nearby vaccine laboratory.

Government vets said the strain is identical to that used at the IAH and Merial Animal Health pharmaceutical company at a site 3km away from the affected cattle farm. According to the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) the strain, first confirmed on Friday, is not found in animals but has similarities with those used in international diagnostic laboratories and vaccine production.

Increased protection
Merial has voluntarily agreed to halve vaccine production and enlarged protection and surveillance zones of 3km and 10km respectively have been set up encompassing both sites.
Debby Reynolds, the government's chief veterinary officer, has also ordered an "urgent" independent review into bio-security arrangements at both sites, while the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is taking "immediate action" with an investigation into the IAH and Merial.

Prime minister Gordon Brown has chaired two Cobra emergency meetings on the issue so far, and he is due to hold another one today after cutting short his holiday in Dorset.

2001 outbreak
In 2001 a foot and mouth outbreak in England and Wales wreaked havoc with the country's tourism and agriculture industries, reportedly costing the UK more than £8.5 billion as seven million farm animals were culled.

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