Foot and mouth outbreak 'was sabotage'
London Telegraph | August 12, 2007
Flashback: Foot and Mouth Virus Released From Government Lab
A scientist called in to investigate whether the foot and mouth virus had escaped from an animal health research plant has said sabotage was becoming the only explanation.
Andrew King, who was brought in by the Institute of Animal Health (IAH), in Pirbright, Surrey, said the police should now be asked to investigate.
Dr King, a former head of molecular biology at the IAH, told The Times that biosecurity was so tight that he felt the outbreak must have been caused deliberately.
He said: “As far as I am concerned the authorities have failed to find any chink in the armoury of the establishment's bio-security. What you are left with is human movement, which is not a matter for the institute, it's a police matter. It's very, very unlikely that it could be spread by accident. People do not spread the disease easily.”
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) staff concluded in their preliminary report that deliberate or accidental human movements were the most likely means by which the FMD virus escaped from the labs.
The IAH and Merial, the American company that shares the same site at Pirbright, were named as the two most probable sources of the outbreak, but investigators have so far been unable to find any evidence that the biosecurity measures or equipment were faulty.
Dr King described a range of biosecurity procedures to protect against leaks. He said staff that came into contact with viruses had to shower and change all their clothes.
“None of these single measures is absolute but together it makes it impossible for the virus to get out and it never has got out in the modern era,” he said.
“It has to be regarded as a bit fishy.”
Dr King said the longest period after which the virus had ever been recovered from the human body after heavy exposure was 48 hours, and that involved a full body search.
In the original outbreaks the infected cattle had been grazing at two sites in the village of Normandy, near Guildford, which is close to a research facility in Pirbright.
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