Blood samples from four more people are being tested by the Public Health Laboratory Service, amid fears that they may have contracted foot and mouth disease. No more details have been released on these cases, but they are the cause of much consternation among the public and the scientific community, who had stressed for so long that the chance of contracting the virus from livestock is extremely rare.

The PHLS has now confirmed that six other suspected cases of foot and mouth in humans have been tested during this crisis, and found negative. Currently, there are tests being carried out on only seven people.

In humans, the livestock virus produces mild symptoms that disappear within a week. They are similar in strength to those of a common cold, with itchy hands and mouth ulcers. A human disease with similar symptoms exists meanwhile, and is known as hand, foot and mouth.

To date, the only confirmed case of a human contracting the livestock virus in the UK occurred in Bobby Brewis in 1966. Since the first suspected case of this crisis emerged earlier this week however, health officials have been inundated with hundreds of calls from concerned members of the public who fear that they too have the disease.

Contract slaughterman Paul Stamper, working in Cumbria, hit the headlines on Monday amid fears that he may be the first human to have contracted the foot and mouth virus during this crisis after being sprayed with material from an infected cow. The result of a blood test from Stamper is due back within the week.