The unanswered question in the media reports would seem to be:
if these people are not suffering from foot-and-mouth -- what was
the diagnosis? After all, they did have the exposure and the symptoms.
What else fits "tongue covered in sores and blisters" in a person
occupationally exposed to foot and mouth disease?
"'No diagnosis' is not acceptable under these circumstances,"
says Pringle. "They have to come up with something specific
that fits better than foot-and-mouth."
Says Paul Stamper, 33, who has gained worldwide recognition for
being suspected of being the first human victim of Britain's recent
foot-and-mouth disease outbreak: I keep hoping that it will just
go away. If it doesn't, everything I have worked for will be worthless.
All we can do is wait and hope.
Stamper believes he caught the disease when he was working at a
farm near Wigton, England, earlier this month, helping transport
dead cattle to a funeral pyre.
Stamper said he was standing behind a tractor when a cow on the
pile of corpses exploded, covering him in vapor and fluid. Stamper
felt moisture in his mouth.
It tasted like it smelled, he told the London Daily Mail. I
spit it out as quickly as I could, but I didn't think it was dangerous.
Stamper said he wasn't wearing a mask because he had not been told
there were any health risks. Stamper admitted that there were masks
available, but he thought the masks were there only to protect workers
from the smell.
He was so unconcerned about the incident that he didn't mention
it to his family until two weeks later when he developed flu-like
symptoms, which eventually progressed to the point he couldn't eat.
I called the doctor, but he just told me that humans could not
get foot-and-mouth, he said. It was only the following morning
when I turned up at the hospital and showed them my tongue [covered
in sores and blisters] that they decided to do the first tests.
By this time my throat was so sore I could barely swallow a cup
of tea, Stamper said. My feet were stone cold and it was like
someone had put an elastic band around my ankles. I couldn't feel
anything properly below the knees.
Stamper is now concerned that because of his infection, he may
never be able to work on farms again. His second job, running a
taxi business, may also be facing ruin because many of his customers
live in the affected area and would not want to be near him, he
On a larger scale, positive confirmation of the disease could also
spell death for the tourist area in many rural British areas. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his agriculture ministers have made
repeated claims that the countryside is safe for travel and tourists;
however, Stamper may end up being "Exhibit A", proof that the disease
can jump from animals to humans.
Stamper's lawyer, Jonathan Hardiker, told the London Daily Mail
that if Stamper is confirmed to have foot-and-mouth disease, he
would consider suing the Agriculture Ministry for failing to provide
adequate safety precautions.
Despite media reports that people can't catch foot-and-mouth from
cattle, there is overwhelming evidence in the medical literature
that confirms humans do catch the disease (e.g., two cases in the
UK reported in medical journals).
Rest assured, however, that the UK has no intention of letting
Stamper be diagnosed with foot-and-mouth. Even though his symptoms
are identical to foot-and-mouth in cattle, and even though he was
exposed directly to the disease, it will come as no surprise to
observers of the recent UK animal epidemics that Stamper will be
found to have "some other disease not related to animal farming."
Perhaps it will be the "please keep the tourists coming"