Outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Cyprus sheep herds confirmed

European Union confirmed an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in at least two sheep herds on the eastern Mediterranean island.

"The expert found clinical symptoms of foot and mouth disease in the herds," Fotiou told the Associated Press.

He said the European Commission had banned all Cypriot meat and dairy exports Monday and prohibited the transport of all livestock including cows, sheep and pigs within the island.

About 300 animals were culled from two adjacent farms near the Dromolaxia community as a precaution prior to the release of definitive test results from an EU laboratory in England.

A Dutch expert supervised the cull and disposal of the sheep carcasses.

A spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said preliminary results from tests on 22 of 52 samples had turned up positive for a strain of the disease prevalent in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.

More samples from nearby herds will be taken to determine if the highly contagious disease has spread.

A quarantine extending along a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius around the disease-stricken farms is in effect, augmented by a 10-kilometer (six-mile) surveillance zone encompassing 10 villages in the south of the island.

There are an estimated 150,000 farm animals within a 10-kilometer radius of the infected herds, including cows, pigs and goats.

The EU spokesman said a committee of food and animal health experts will meet Tuesday to decide in consultation with Cypriot authorities on additional measures to contain and eliminate the outbreak.

Options range from the immediate cull of 1,000 animals from four farms near the infected herds to a slaughter of 20,000 more within the exclusion zone, Fotiou said.

He pledged the government would compensate affected farmers, who fear an expanded cull would ruin them.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova