DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- The first cases of foot-and-mouth disease were confirmed Thursday in the Republic of Ireland, despite desperate efforts that went as far as canceling St. Patrick's Day parades.
Two cases were confirmed in the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, about 50 miles north of Dublin, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told the Irish Parliament. One case of foot-and-mouth disease previously had been confirmed across the border in Northern Ireland.
"All we can hope now is to confine it to the immediate area," said Tom Parlon, president of the Irish Farmers Association. "I think there will be an immediate slaughter of all the sheep and stock."
Although not dangerous to humans, foot-and-mouth is highly contagious among livestock, capable of being spread even by the wind. Governments, faced with a loss of export markets, often resort to killing livestock to contain the disease.
The discovery in Ireland comes a day after confirmation of cases in the Netherlands. It quashed hopes that the livestock disease could be bottled up in a small corner of France, the only other place in continental Europe where it has been identified since it erupted in Britain a month ago.
The Dutch moved swiftly to slaughter 20,000 animals, but the government on Thursday backed away from a plan to vaccinate the cattle because of fears it would strip them of their disease-free status in world markets. Inoculated animals bear the same foot-and-mouth antibodies as infected animals.
In Britain, the foot-and-mouth count climbed to 444 cases by Thursday. Roy Anderson, a University of London scientist who studied the pattern of the disease for the government, said foot-and-mouth would not be eliminated before August.
Anderson said the epidemic was more severe than the last major foot-and-mouth crisis in 1967.
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