THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Monday, August 6, 2007

3. Foot-and-mouth strain identified

This outbreak has been attributed to a strain that is not normally found in animals but is used in vaccine production and in diagnostic laboratories. Hence it is a case of a lack of biosecurity at an institute, three miles from the farm. I say well done to the scientists working round the clock to identify and isolate the cause and to prevent the disease from rapidly spreading to other farms and animals.

The strain of foot-and-mouth disease found at a Surrey farm has been identified, Defra has said.

The strain detected in infected cattle is identical to that used at the Institute for Animal Health, at Pirbright, three miles from the farm.

Defra could not say the laboratory was the source but has increased the size of the protection and surveillance zones covering farms in the area.

An urgent assessment of biosecurity has begun at the institute.

The strain is not one normally found in animals but is used in vaccine production and in diagnostic laboratories.

In a statement Defra said: "The present indications are that this strain is a 01 BFS67-like virus, isolated in the 1967 foot and mouth disease outbreak in Great Britain."

The strain was used in a vaccine batch manufactured last month by a private pharmaceutical company Merial Animal Health.

The firm shares Pirbright with the government's Institute for Animal Health (IAH), which conducts research into foot-and-mouth and where the strain is also present.

Merial voluntarily halted vaccine production as a precaution.

Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds said it was too soon to say anything conclusive about the source of the virus but it was clear which strain was involved.

The UK's chief vet has ordered a single protection zone to encompass both the infected farm premises and the Pirbright site, with a single 10km radius surveillance zone.

There has been a cull of one other herd of cattle adjacent to the farm as a precautionary measure but there were no signs of infection in any animals there, Ms Reynolds confirmed.

She appealed to farmers to be vigilant and to check their animals for any sign of foot-and-mouth disease.

A UK-wide ban on the movement of livestock had already been put in place after foot-and-mouth was confirmed at Wolford farm, near Guildford, on Friday night.

Some 64 cattle have since been culled after testing positive for the foot-and-mouth.

On Saturday evening Prime Minister Gordon Brown chaired his second Cobra emergency committee meeting of the day on the issue after he cut short his Dorset holiday to return to London.

He is due to chair another meeting of Cobra on Sunday morning - BBC.