Human 'victim' says it feels like bad dose of flu

April 25, 2001 The Daily Telegraph(London) by Nigel Bunyan

THE first suspected human victim of foot and mouth has blamed his exposure to the disease on a freak accident that occurred while he was preparing to transport a slaughtered cow.

Paul Stamper, 37, of Dearham, Cumbria, who was contracted to move carcasses from farms to a mass burial site, said he "wasn't feeling too bad" and that it was like a "a bad dose of the flu".

He spoke as two more suspected cases of foot and mouth in humans were being investigated by the Public Health Laboratory Service. Neither of these is in north Cumbria.

A spokesman for the PHLS said: "There are a lot of symptoms that can seem similar to foot and mouth, and the case yesterday has obviously raised concerns."

Mr Stamper, who is married and has two young children, has blisters on his tongue and in the back of his throat but not on his hands or feet. Preliminary results of blood tests taken by a GP on Monday should be known today.

In a brief interview given while he remains in quarantine, Mr Stamper said: "I was going to pick up a carcass from a farm and it exploded into my face as I was dealing with it.

"Some of the juices went into my mouth and I swallowed them. It looks like that's how I contracted the disease."

Mr Stamper's family have been involved in agriculture for generations. He himself has held a number of jobs in the area, among them farm labouring and part-time taxi-driving.

He had been working for an outside contractor in an operation organised by the Army and was the seventh person to be tested by the Public Health Laboratory Service since the foot and mouth outbreak began.

Although all the others have proved negative, his high level of exposure is thought to have made him most likely to become a victim.

Only one person has had a diagnosis of foot and mouth confirmed in Britain. Bobby Brewis, a farm machinery salesman from Northumberland, contracted the disease in 1966.

At the time he complained of a sore throat, a high temperature and blisters on his tongue and between his toes. He has since died from an unrelated heart attack.

A spokesman for North Cumbria Health Authority said: "Tests are being carried out at the central public health laboratory in Colindale on samples from the man who may have contracted foot and mouth.

"We hope to be in a position to release the results to the media when they are available and after discussion with the patient.

"We would stress that human foot and mouth disease is extremely rare and person to person transmission has never been documented."

David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent, writes: Despite the similarities in the name, hand, foot and mouth disease is unrelated to the disease devastating Britain's livestock.

The disease usually affects children aged two to six, but can also occur in babies. There are often small epidemics in nursery schools and playgroups.

In younger children a rash of small yellow blisters with red borders may appear in the mouth, throat, tonsils, tongue, hands, feet and bottom. Other symptoms include slight fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.

In older children and adults, symptoms are milder and do not usually include a rash or blisters.

There is no treatment, although mild painkillers will ease the discomfort of blisters. The symptoms usually clear up between five and seven days and complications are rare.

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