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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Seek Source of Outbreak

LONDON -- Health experts worked Wednesday to determine whether an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in southern England came from a high-security government laboratory or a private company at the same site. They were also trying to determine whether its spread was deliberate.

The country's health and safety agency said late Tuesday that there was a "strong probability" that the outbreak originated at the Pirbright site southwest of London and was spread by human movement. But the drug company being investigated as a possible source of the outbreak insisted that there had been no breach of its security procedures.

Vaccine-maker Merial Animal Health said "intensive internal investigations" had found no evidence of breaches. "To date, we have not been able to establish any evidence that the virus may have been transported out of our center by humans," the company said in a statement.

The virus was discovered last week on a farm about seven kilometers from the Pirbright lab complex.

The government said there was a "real possibility" that the disease was spread by human movement, while the possibility that it was transmitted by wind or floodwaters was negligible.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said it was unclear whether the outbreak was the result of accidental or deliberate human contamination. "The truth is, we don't know," he said. "We're all very, very anxious."