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Virus Conitnues Spread

Virus Conitnues SpreadWholesale slaughters may be necessary to prevent further spread of the animal virus in Europe, says a Tufts expert.

No. Grafton, Mass. [03.15.01] On Tuesday, the U.S. halted all animal and meat imports from the European Union, hoping the measure prevent the spread of the extremely contagious foot and mouth disease to U.S. soil. The virus -- already spreading rapidly through Europe -- has prompted many farmers in the Great Britain and France to begin wholesale slaughters of infected animals, the Boston Globe reported.

While the measure may seem drastic, an expert at Tufts' Veterinary School says farmers may not be able to afford alternative measures.

Tufts' George Saperstein told the Boston Globe that scientists compared the costs of killing infected animals with the expense of repeated vaccinations against the disease, following a similar outbreak in 1967.

"It turned out it's far less expensive to do what they're doing now than to vaccinate [the animals against the disease]," Saperstein said in the Globe's article.

According to the Tufts expert, the economic impact of foot and mouth disease on farmers is significant.

Even after they've destroyed infected animals, farmers must leave barns and other facilities empty for at least six months, Saperstein told the Globe.

Despite all of the precautions in place to prevent diseases like foot and mouth from spreading to the United States, Saperstein remains cautious.

"I've always been nervous about it, because there's so much international travel," he said.

Because they are most likely to recognize and diagnose the disease, Saperstein told the Globe that veterinarians in the U.S. will provide the first line of defense against a widespread outbreak of the foot and mouth virus.

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