The United States today banned imports of livestock and meat from Europe and ordered that all arriving travelers be disinfected if they've visited European farms. This follows the first confirmed outbreak of highly-contagious foot-and-mouth disease in mainland Europe. It turned up in French livestock despite weeks of urgent measures to contain the disease in England. In addition, there are now suspect livestock in Italy, Argentina and in South America.
People rarely catch foot-and-mouth. The main concern for humans is the impact on our meat supply and the prices we pay for it. CBS's Tom Fenton in London explains.
Today's US ban on all animals and meat from Europe followed news that foot-and-mouth disease has now spread to France. And it's not likely to stop there. The French army has been called in to burn the carcasses of 50,000 sheep and cattle.
In Britain, where the epidemic began, animal bonfires are burning from one end of the country to the other. No one is sure how the disease got to Britain and they may never know. But every time a new case is found the government has no question about what should be done. Every cow, pig, or sheep on the farm must be killed.
So many are being slaughtered that the government is having trouble disposing of them all.
"It's pretty gory really because all my stock is lying on the deck, you know with bags on their heads," says farmhand Simon Lethbridge. "The smell is unbelievable."
British farming had barely recovered from mad cow disease, which kills humans as well as animals, when it was hit by this. And though the foot-and-mouth virus affects animals only, it is so contagious that measures to contain it are devastating farming communities.
The Jones's pedigree dairy herd has just been slaughtered. "It's a bereavement. I don't think I've ever felt as desperate as I did last night when I could hear the gun going off," says farmer Jo Jones.
Trevor Kligg can't leave his farm, and visitors can't come in, for fear of spreading the virus on their footwear or tires. The government intends to keep on slaughtering, keep on burning, until the epidemic dies out. No one seems to know when that will be.
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