'No sign of human infection' from anthrax-diseased cow in Wiltshire

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None of the people who came into contact with an anthrax-diseased cow on a farm in Wiltshire have shown signs of being infected, a council official has said.

The farm in Westbury was closed off after a cow was discovered with anthrax disease on Friday - the first case detected in an animal since 2006.

The cow died earlier last week with officials taking urgent action to instantly shut the farm and incinerate the animal.

A footpath that runs past the farm on Storridge Road has also been cordoned off from the public, with "Keep Out, Disease Outbreak" signs installed.

Director of Public Health at Wiltshire Council, Maggie Rae, said she was "confident" there had been no exposure of the disease to those in contact with the dead cow.

She told BBC Wiltshire: "Anyone who was in contact with the cow, which was a limited number of people, we've just being observing them.

"There is quite a short period between exposure and illness, probably about 72 hours, and all those human contacts have shown no sign of the disease."

She added: "Obviously the most import thing we needed to do, which we did over the weekend, was have the cow incinerated and make sure it was disposed of safely."

"The local people know where it [the footpath] is because the footpath is now closed. This is a precautionary action but it has been shut for more than 72 hours and we feel confident there has been no exposure."

Almost 2km (1.2 miles) of the Dilton Marsh footpath has been closed off to users.

The council also confirmed that no cattle from the field had entered the food chain.

Earlier, Mike Wade, deputy director of Health Protection for Public Health England South West, said: "We are aware of a confirmed case of anthrax disease in a cow in the Westbury area of Wiltshire.

"The risk of infection in close human contacts of the animal is very low, and we are in touch with any potential contacts to offer public health advice."

Anthrax is a bacterial disease which primarily affects herbivorous animals, although all mammals are susceptible to infection.

Human cases of anthrax are very rare - with the last case occurring in 2008.

The last case of the rare disease in an animal was almost 10 years ago on a beef farm in South Wales.

Two cows died on the farm in Rhondda Cynon Taf in April 2006.

Before that, the last case seen in Britain was in 2002.

All sudden, unexplained deaths of cattle are investigated for anthrax, and hundreds of samples are examined each year.

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said: "It is unusual but not unheard of. Our sympathies are with the farmer concerned but there is no need for the public to be worried.

"I'm not sure what farm it is but if they are an NFU member we'll offer them our support, obviously. The clean-up process has taken place so hopefully that'll be that."