LONDON -- Britain and Ireland struggled Thursday to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and the first cases in Scotland were confirmed at farms near Lockerbie.
With the spread of the disease to Northern Ireland confirmed, fears mounted in the Irish Republic. Irish trainers were set to pull their horses out of a prestigious horse jump race, the Cheltenham Festival in England. The meet itself, set for March 13-15, could be called off.
Britain's biggest dog show, Crufts, has been postponed because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, organizers announced Thursday. The Forestry Commission said it was closing all forests.
Meanwhile, continental Europe took more steps to prevent the spread of the virulent livestock ailment, which can be transmitted by humans -- even on their clothes -- or through the air. So far, no case has been confirmed on the continent.
Belgium on Thursday began the destruction of sheep and goats imported from Britain since Feb. 1, as well as domestic livestock that may have come into contact with them -- about 2,000 animals in all, media reported.
Portugal on Thursday ordered all people arriving from the United Kingdom to disinfect their shoes on arrival. Spain banned livestock fairs and restricted transport of animals, while the Netherlands ordered the closure of zoos and nature preserves.
In Germany, authorities said initial tests at two suspect farms in North Rhine-Westphalia had found no evidence of the disease. A third farm, in the western state of Hesse, was sealed off and disinfected Thursday after checks showed that animals from a British farm affected by the disease had been transported there.
Foot-and-mouth affects cloven-hoofed animals, causing weight loss and reduced dairy production.
Since the outbreak of the disease was confirmed last week at a slaughterhouse near London, veterinarians have identified more than two dozen cases across England. A total of 102 British farms have been sealed off or forced to take precautions, and the transport and export of livestock has been banned.
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