Humans test negative for FMD in Britain, animal cases continue to decline

Published on May 15, 2001
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Thirteen humans tested for foot-and-mouth disease have received negative results, said Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service in late April.

Agriculture workers remove carcasses of animals killed in an effort to fight the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain.

Those cleared were the first to be tested during the current FMD outbreak, and included a worker who accidentally ingested fluid sprayed from a rotting carcass. Two more suspected cases were being investigated as of April 30.

According to the laboratory service, human cases of FMD are rare—the last documented human case in Britain occurred in 1967—and the symptoms are usually mild. The disease can cause blisters on the hands and a sore throat, as well as fever and other flulike symptoms. Patients usually recover in a few days, and there is no evidence it can be passed to other humans. Human cases are associated with close contact with infected animals.

In other FMD news, new animal cases continued to decline in the UK—during the week of April 22, there were an average of 16 new cases per day, down from an average of 43 per day during the week of April 1. In late April, British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told the parliament that the agriculture department was refining its cattle slaughter policy to "provide some relief from the automatic slaughter of cattle."

All "dangerous contacts"—cattle on infected farms and many on neighboring farms—will still be killed, but some others on nearby farms may be spared. Local veterinarians will have the power to decide which cattle are susceptible and should be killed, and which ones farmers have protected by adequate biosecurity and may be spared. The policy change does not apply to sheep or pigs.