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New Zealanders calm on Food and Mouth virus scares
www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-11 10:13:35

    By Xia Wenhui     

    WELLINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government and the police have been investigating a threatening letter of releasing Foot and Mouth virus, meanwhile activating the emergencysystem warding against a possible outbreak, with the market keeping rather calm Wednesday waiting for results of the incidents.

    The police are now looking at the possibility that the threatened release of the foot and mouth virus on Waiheke Island is a University capping stunt, said a local radio, saying it is capping week at Palmerston North's Massey University and the letter to the Prime Minister containing the threat came from the Manawatu postal area.

    The police said "all possibilities are being looked at."

    New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) confirmed later Tuesday it was investigating a possible threat of foot and mouth disease, but "believed it to be a hoax."

    Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Marshall told reporters Wednesday that there was "no question" the letter was a hoax.

    He declined to elaborate on how police had reached that conclusion, but said forensic experts had been examining the letter.

    MAF said it in the meantime had quarantined a farm on Waiheke Island, where the letter-sender said virus were released.

    The letter-sender threatened a further "release" in another part of New Zealand "if particular actions were not taken by the government by a certain day this week."

    The Government Tuesday informed 40 of New Zealand's trading partners about the claim, with only one country expressing seriousconcerns about exports, New Zealand Food Safety Authority directorAndrew McKenzie said Wednesday.

    He said all Waiheke's entrance ports were Wednesday either closed or closely guarded, with visitors to the popular tourist destination off the coast of Auckland being advised not to bring animal products back to the mainland.

    Critics said that MAF is not doing enough to isolate the island.They said measures such as using foot baths or stopping cats and dogs from leaving should be introduced immediately.

    Biosecurity director Barry O'Neil declined suggestions, saying at this stage he believed they should not go the extra step and treat the threat as a real release of the virus because "there is currently no evidence of it."

    Animals on farms in Waiheke would be checked every 48 hours forsigns of the disease, but no samples would be taken because they would take too long to process, said O'Neil, adding so far officials had identified no "high risk" movements.

    There were no concerns about pets spreading the disease and there were few of the most high risk farm animal, pigs, on Waiheke,said O'Neil.

    O'Neill declined to tell ways in which foot-and-mouth disease could be deliberately introduced to New Zealand.

    "I don't believe getting viable foot-and-mouth disease through our border biosecurity systems into New Zealand and infecting animals is an easy undertaking," he said.

    Stock and currency markets reacted Wednesday morning with caution to the possibility of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The New Zealand dollar has risen slightly against the currencies of its main trading partners, indicating support for the Government's explanation of a hoax.

    Local dealers said it would "be ridiculous" for the markets to react adversely at this stage. Enditem 

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