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Britain stops meat exports after farm outbreak

Foot-mouth disease found

WANBOROUGH, England -- Britain raced to avert economic disaster yesterday by halting meat and dairy exports and the movement of livestock around the country after foot-and-mouth disease was found on a southern English farm.

The strain of the highly infectious disease was identical to one used at a nearby government-funded laboratory that is researching vaccines for the virus, Britain's environment agency said yesterday. Officials are still investigating other possible sources, the country's chief veterinarian said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed to work "night and day" to avoid a repeat of a 2001 outbreak, when millions of dead animals were burned on pyres, swathes of the countryside were closed, rural tourism was badly hurt, and British meat was shut out of international markets.

"Our first priority has been to act quickly and decisively," Brown said. "I can assure people . . . we are doing everything in our power to look at the scientific evidence and to get to the bottom of what has happened and then to eradicate this disease."

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs said Britain had banned the export of live cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats, as well as carcasses, meat, and milk.

The United States and Japan banned British pigs and pork products in response to the outbreak. British beef is already banned in both countries because of mad-cow disease.

The European Union is also likely to announce a ban on British livestock imports in the 27-nation bloc when its executive body meets tomorrow.

British authorities also imposed a nationwide ban on transporting cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs in response to the outbreak.

Foot-and-mouth disease causes fever and blister-like lesions on the mouths, teats, and hooves of affected animals. It can be deadly in livestock but is harmless to humans.