Bríd Rodgers, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, has announced that the Veterinary Service is investigating a "hot" suspect case of Foot and Mouth Disease in Northern Ireland. A single sheep displaying symptoms of the disease including lesions in the mouth and in all four feet, was discovered in a slaughterhouse in the Dungannon area.

The sheep originated on a farm near Augher. Clinical examination of the remaining animals in the slaughterhouse and on the farm have so far revealed no symptoms. However, samples from the affected animal are being sent to the Foot and Mouth Disease Laboratory at Pirbright. Initial indications of whether the samples are positive should be available within 24 to 36 hours. The Department has placed both the abattoir and the farm under restriction and has established an 8 kilometre surveillance zone around both.

Mrs Rodgers said:-

"I am extremely disappointed that nearly 2 weeks after the positive case in South Armagh, we could now be faced with a further outbreak of the disease in Northern Ireland. However, we will not be sure until the samples have been tested and until then the steps which we are taking are purely precautionary. There is no need for panic at this stage but clearly this emphasises the need for further vigilance on farms and for compliance with the Department of Agriculture's advice on animal movements and movements of people". published a feature on foot and mouth. To read it, click here.