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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Rushes to Stop Epidemic

APCow carcasses waiting to be burned following a foot-and-mouth outbreak.
LONDON -- British authorities rushed to halt an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease Saturday by slaughtering and then incinerating 60 cattle on an infected farm near London.

Hours later, Britain's environmental agency announced that the strain of the disease in the cattle was identical to one found at a nearby animal research lab.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown canceled his vacation and returned to London, where he summoned an emergency meeting of the government crisis committee.

Speaking after the meeting, he said authorities would work around-the-clock to stamp out the disease that six years ago crippled the country's farming and tourism industry.

"We will be doing night and day everything in our power to make sure that what happens, happens quickly and happens decisively in a way that can reassure people that everything is being done," Brown said.

Symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease were first reported Thursday at a farm near Guildford, 48 kilometers southwest of London. By Friday, the British government had placed a nationwide ban on the movement of all animals with cloven hooves, including cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.

A 10-kilometer surveillance zone was set up around the farm. Residents within the area were asked to inspect their animals for symptoms, which in cattle include smacking of the lips and blisters in their mouths and on their feet. The disease can be deadly in livestock but poses no risk to humans.

"The mood here is pretty somber," said Paul Ibbot, a sheep and cattle farmer who lives about two kilometers outside the surveillance zone. "If it's not controlled quickly, you face losing everything." Ibbot said members of the small farming community were baffled by how the virus arrived because cattle are rarely moved at this time of year.

The strain of the disease on the infected farm has not recently been found in animals, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement.

It was, however, "most similar to strains used in international diagnostic laboratories and in vaccine production, including at the Pirbright site shared by the Institute of Animal Health and Merial Animal Health, a pharmaceutical company." The Pirbright site is a few kilometers from the infected farm.

The British government banned the export of livestock, meat and milk, and several countries took precautionary measures of their own. The United States has banned swine products from Britain, the Department of Agriculture announced in a statement.