Reports on source of FMD to be unveiled today

There were at least five breaches of bio-security at a lab connected with July's foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, according to a BBC report.

It said that the breaches at the Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright, four miles from where the disease was found, are shown in two reports due to be unveiled later this morning

The breaches include a leaking pipe; drains inadequate for floodwater; and failures in monitoring people and vehicles.

The Institute shares the Pirbright site with the Merial animal vaccine company.

The BBC said it understood that the reports, one by the Health and Safety Executive and the other by Professor Brian Spratt of Imperial College, include photographs of the pipe showing clear signs of damage from tree roots and of some joints being misaligned.

It reported that investigators reportedly found records indicating that for several years there had been concerns about the state of the pipe, but that no repairs were carried out, possibly because funds were not made available.

The BBC added that investigators have not identified a single point of failure allowing the foot-and-mouth virus to escape, but they have outlined a scenario for what they believe happened:

* The virus was present in the pipe, which is allowed under current rules governing animal viruses. The pipe links Merial to a treatment plant run by the Institute.

* It was then flushed out of it during flooding at the site on 20 July.

* Vehicles used by contractors then drove into the flooded area allowing the virus to be picked up on the tyres or chassis.

* Those vehicles then left the site and travelled several miles to a road called Westward Lane which was also flooded, and there the waters washed the virus off the vehicles and into fields nearby where the cattle became infected.

It is expected that ministers will announce a series of measures in response to these findings.

A review will assess whether animal viruses should be handled as strictly as human viruses.

Emergency work will be carried out on the drains - the damaged pipe is already being re-lined. And there will be tighter controls on movements at the site.

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