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Animals on 2 more farms tested for outbreak

/ Source: The Associated Press

Livestock on two more British farms — including one close to a popular zoo and theme park — are being tested for foot-and-mouth disease, the government said Tuesday.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or DEFRA, said it had set up two new 3-kilometer (2-mile) exclusion zones around locations where cattle are suspected of contracting the disease.

One is in Surrey, the southern England county where the disease was found on two properties last month, and a second is in the adjacent county of Kent.

Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo, a theme park in Surrey, said it had closed a number of attractions, despite being outside the new protection zone in Surrey.

The park said a children's zoo, which houses pygmy goats, pot bellied pigs and sheep, has been shut down while tests are run on the Surrey farm.

Britain's environment department said examinations at both locations were being carried out as a precaution.

"At this stage disease has not been confirmed; laboratory results will follow," said Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds.

Confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth have so far not spread beyond a small area in Surrey, about 30 miles southwest of London. An epidemic of the highly contagious ailment in 2001 led to the slaughter of 7 million animals and shut British meat out of world markets for months.

Disease probably spread from lab

An investigation has concluded that the disease probably spread by human movement from a research laboratory facility in Pirbright, Surrey. The complex houses vaccine-maker Merial Animal Health — the British arm of U.S.-French pharmaceutical firm Merial Ltd. — and the government's Institute of Animal Health.

Experts are still trying to determine exactly how the disease spread. Foot-and-mouth disease can be carried by wind and on the vehicles and clothes of people who have contact with infected animals.

Animals on two farms near the lab complex tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease and were slaughtered.

Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals including cows, sheep, pigs and goats. It does not typically infect humans, but its appearance among farm animals can have a far-reaching economic impact. Several countries have banned imports of British livestock and Britain has voluntarily suspended exports of livestock, meat and milk products since the outbreak was identified Aug. 3.