The Dutch government has confirmed the country’s first cases of foot-and-mouth after tests found four cows had contracted the highly contagious disease.
The cases on a farm near Olst in the eastern part of the country dashed increasing optimism that EU authorities had contained the disease. The Netherlands is the second country in continental Europe after France to be infected with foot and mouth since the current outbreak was unleashed in the UK nearly a month ago.
The Dutch government resumed a nationwide ban on transporting livestock that it had lifted two days earlier. EU veterinary officials are considering whether export restrictions on livestock products to the other 15 member states should be applied only to specific areas of Holland. As yet no date has been given for when it will be lifted. The EU says they are still confident the disease can be contained.
In the UK, agriculture minister Nick Brown denied reports that his department knew that foot-and-mouth disease was in Britain before it was officially announced.
Mr Brown said the reports in foreign media were simply ‘not true.’ Some newspapers reported that Ministry of Agriculture officials made enquiries about obtaining timber for burning animal carcasses before the outbreak was confirmed.
Foot-and-mouth outbreaks in the UK continue bringing the total to 395 on Wednesday. Forty-four cases were reported on Tuesday, the largest increase during the crisis. In Scotland the pre-emptive slaughter of 200,000 apparently healthy animals has been delayed by efforts to clear a backlog of confirmed cases.
Mr Brown told the UK parliament’s select agricultural committee that the continued appearance of outbreaks in the UK was the result of the virus incubating in already infected animals. Mr Brown admitted there had been a series of problems to overcome, including the speed of confirming cases, culling animals and disposing of the carcasses that hindered government efforts to tackle the foot-and-mouth outbreak.