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Sixties victim recovered after five months

April 24, 2001 The Independent (London) by Steve Connor

ALTHOUGH THE symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease in humans are similar to those in animals - fever and blisters - there is one important difference: the virus is extremely difficult to transmit to people and there is no evidence that it can pass between people.

There have only been 37 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease in humans recorded in the scientific literature, according to Alex Donaldson, the head of the Pirbright Laboratory in Surrey which is the world reference centre for the virus.

In the exceptionally rare cases where the virus is transmitted to humans, the clinical signs include high temperatures, sore throats, headaches, general malaise and blisters on the hands, feet and mouth.

The last recorded case in Britain occurred in 1966 when Bobby Brewis, than a 35 -year-old agricultural salesman, caught the disease during a stay on his brother's farm in Northumberland where an outbreak had occurred. He had watched the animals being slaughtered but took no direct part in the culling or disposal of the carcasses.

Four days later he developed a sore throat and fever. Over the next week blisters developed on his tongue and between his toes, according to the doctors' report on his case published in the British Medical Journal.

"The patient described his lesions as uncomfortable and tingling, while his tongue was hot, tingling and sore," the doctors said. The blisters disappeared and reappeared twice more over the following five months but Mr Brewis eventually made a full recovery.

"No spread to other humans appears to have occurred in this case and, as the patient did not come into contact with animals either before or after his illness, there is no evidence of spread in this direction," the doctors wrote.

"There is, however, a clear case for treatment of the condition in isolation," they added.


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