UK slaughters cattle suspected of foot and mouth

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LONDON, Sep 21 (Reuters) British authorities said today they have ordered the slaughter of cattle suspected of having foot and mouth disease on a farm in southern England.

The farm is within a three-km (two-mile) protection zone previously set up around a farm infected with foot and mouth in the Surrey area.

Tight restrictions on the movement and sale of animals are in force within the protection zone.

''The decision has been taken to slaughter cattle on suspicion of foot and mouth disease on a farm in Surrey,'' the agriculture ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

''This follows a veterinary inspection of the affected cattle on a parcel of land in the existing protection zone,'' it said.

Tests for foot and mouth disease have been carried out at the farm but it was not known when the results would be ready, the ministry said.

Five farms in southern England have been infected with foot and mouth since August but the disease has so far been limited to that area.

Foot and mouth is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily on the wind. It can cause animals to foam at the mouth and collapse.

Britain suffered a crippling outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 when more than 6 million animals had to be culled. The outbreak hit agriculture and tourism hard, costing the economy an estimated 8.5 billion pounds (17.14 billion dollar).

REUTERS AK PM0235

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