Foot and mouth disease has been detected in a second herd of cattle in southern Britain, raising fears the highly damaging animal virus is spreading.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said culling of animals had already begun at the farm, which was within a 6 mile protection zone set up around a farm where foot and mouth cases were first found last week.
"The chief veterinary officer will confirm shortly ... that the tests that were done overnight on the samples taken ... confirm foot and mouth," Benn told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We've got to keep on top of this outbreak and make sure it doesn't spread anywhere else."
Foot and mouth disease can be carried by the wind and affects cloven-hoofed animals. The disease was confirmed in a small herd of cattle on a farm in Surrey, southwest of London, on Friday. The cattle were destroyed and protection zones enforced.
It was the first outbreak of the disease in Britain since 2001, when the illness caused devastation among the farming community. More than six million animals were burned on vast funeral pyres and the crisis cost agriculture and the rural tourism industry around US$17 billion.
Following the discovery of the disease on Friday, the European Union banned all British exports of fresh meat, live animals and milk products. Britain's exports of meat are worth more than 1 billion dollars a year.
It is still not clear how the outbreak of the disease began, but investigators are focusing on two animal research labs -- one run by the government, the other private -- sited about five miles from where the disease erupted.
They are also considering the possibility that recent heavy floods across central and parts of southern Britain may have contributed to the transmission of the virus.
(Xinhua News Agency via Agencies August 8, 2007)