Attached is the full copy of a statement by Baroness Hayman, Minister of State at MAFF, to the House of Lords today on the outbreak in Essex of foot and mouth disease.
STATEMENT BY BARONESS HAYMANThe Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer last night confirmed the presence of Foot and Mouth Disease in pigs in an abattoir and in cattle on a neighbouring farm near Brentwood in Essex. Emergency movement controls are already in place, prohibiting the movement of livestock in the five mile surrounding area. A wider infected area, taking account of geography and the risks of airborne spread, is being imposed.
The State Veterinary Service is urgently undertaking epidemiological tracings, to try to establish the original source of the disease, which is likely to have been brought into the abattoir during the course of last week. The premises takes pigs from all over the United Kingdom, so we cannot assume that the disease started in Essex.
Foot and Mouth Disease is highly virulent in pigs, cattle, sheep and other ungulates, spreading rapidly by contact between animals, transmission via people or transport, or through the air.
It is essential that farmers and all those handling animals in markets or abattoirs should be vigilant for signs of disease. These include the development of blisters in the mouth, causing considerable salivation, and on the feet, resulting in lameness. Death is unusual but animals quickly cease to gain weight, and milk production in dairy animals falls. I am placing a detailed description of the symptoms in the House libraries, and on the Ministry’s Website. If they spot these symptoms, farmers and those handling animals should report them as soon as possible to their vet or to the local MAFF Animal Health Office, from whom advice can also be sought in cases of doubt. Owners must examine their animals regularly and look out for any signs of problems – time is of the essence if we are to limit the spread of this disease.
When disease is suspected, the animals and other contacts are slaughtered, and full compensation is paid.
We are in close touch with the European Commission and our European partners, and I anticipate that temporary controls on export of live animals, meat, milk and other animal products from the UK, and on movements within the county of Essex, will need to come into force later today. This is normal precautionary practice for disease control purposes in outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease.
Foot and mouth disease is not a public health issue. I am advised by the Department of Health that although human infection of Foot and Mouth Disease has been reported, cases are rare and of no health significance – the last report of human infection appears to have been in the 1960s. The Food Standards Agency has advised that there are no implications for the human food chain.
The Department is putting in place emergency operational arrangements broadly following the pattern of last year’s Classical Swine Fever outbreak. We shall provide the fullest possible information to Parliament, the media and the affected communities. The Chief Veterinary Officer is establishing a regular meeting of key stakeholders.
As those who remember 1967 will know, a widespread outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease can be extremely serious for the whole of the farming community. MAFF, working closely with the devolved administrations and local authorities, is taking every step it can to control the disease and to minimise the damage and disruption it can cause.