After a herd tested positive to foot-and-mouth disease at Beaumont College Farm, Old Windsor, Surrey/Berkshire border, England, forty cattle have been destroyed. This outbreak is within the previous 3 kilometer protection zone set up after previous cases in the area - this new case is the fourth within the last fortnight.

According to Defra (Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affaris), this now becomes the sixth infected premises since August 3rd 2007. The new protection and surveillance zones can be found at www.defra/footandmouth. Part of The Queen's estate at Windsor is now within the protection zone.

Cobra emergencies committee has met again with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss the latest outbreaks of foot-and-mouth in England. After the meeting, Dr. Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer, told the BBC that the farmer in this latest case acted promptly. She added that the vigilance of farmers is crucial for the containment of the disease. "They are the absolute front line of defense and in partnership with animal health will intensify and obviously work in that protection zone, to see if there is any other evidence of local spread."

Dr. Reynolds said that the protection zone and surveillance zones have extended towards the north. She added that officials were working on finding out exactly where in the country the surrey animals might have been moved to.

What is Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)?

FMD is an infectious disease which sickens cloven-hoofed animals, especially cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer. The disease is serious for animal health and the economic welfare of the farming (livestock) industry. Even though FMD is not typically fatal for adult animals, its consequences on loss of output can be dreadful. FMD can cause milk yields to plummet and animals frequently become lame. FMD can be deadly and on a large scale for young animals.

The after-effects of FMD are serious. Affected animals lose condition and are particularly at risk of bacterial infections. A dairy cow is much more prone to suffer from chronic mastitis, which permanently reduces the value of the cow. Animals which recover from FMD are much more likely to be infertile.

FMD is Caused by a Virus

FMD is caused by a virus of which there are 7 main types. These types can only be differentiated in the laboratory, as their symptoms are identical - fever, followed by blisters (vesicles) mainly in the mouth and feet.

The seven main virus types are: O, A, C, SAT.1, SAT.2, SAT.3 and Asia 1 - each type has subtypes. The average incubation period is between three to eight days - it has been known to be shorter, and as long as 14 days. The UK 2001 outbreak was the pan-Asiatic O type.

An animal that recovers from one virus type is not protected against infection from any of the other types.

How does Foot and Mouth Spread?

Enormous numbers of the virus are present in the fluid of the blisters, and to a certain extent in saliva, milk and dung. Any objects that come into contact with the blister fluids are a serious danger to other healthy animals. At its peak, FMD is present in the blood.

Before symptoms begin animals start excreting the virus. Pig's dung can be especially contaminated.

Under favorable conditions, the disease can spread through the air for a considerable distance.

Animals become infected either as a result of direct contact with a sick animal or by contact with foodstuffs, dead carcasses, or touching anything a sick animals has touched.

With intensive farming these days animals are transported long distances and rapidly. This movement of animals and vehicles can accelerate the speed and distance of FMD spread. Even the roads themselves can become contaminated, increasing the risk that other vehicles pick them up.

How Widespread is Foot and Mouth Disease?

FMD is endemic in many parts of Asia, South America and Africa. In 2001 the UK, Eire (Ireland), France and the Netherlands had outbreaks of FMD.

Can Humans Get FMD?

According to the UK Department of Health, human infection of FMD is extremely rare. The only recorded human case in the UK was in 1966 - symptoms were similar to influenza (flu), plus some blisters and were fairly mild. There is a human condition, known as Hand Foot and Mouth disease, which is unrelated to FMD, and does not affect animals.

-- More about foot-and-mouth in England can be found defra/footandmouth/about/index.htm

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