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March 19, 2002   Email to Friend 

KANSAS PROBES FMD RUMOR
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
March 19, 2002

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that Kansas livestock officials are working to improve communication following an unfounded rumor of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that led to selling in the commodities market.

Kansas Animal Health Commissioner George Teagarden told the state's House Agriculture Committee that his agency lacked an adequate plan for dealing with such rumors - until now.

"In hindsight, it's pretty easy to sit back and see things you should do," he said Monday. "I had no idea that it started a disaster across the United States at that time." On March 12, a rumor that nine cows at the Holton Livestock Market were infected with foot-and-mouth disease spread quickly throughout the Midwest and to the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Analysts estimate the rumor cost the industry as much as $50 million after prices for market cattle dropped $1.50 a hundredweight. Prices have rebounded slightly. Teagarden said regulators are investigating whether anyone illegally manipulated the market for profit.

The cattle at the center of the rumor had sores in their mouths. State investigators found the source of the mouth irritation - coarse hay - and discovered a horse with similar symptoms. That was important because horses can't contract foot-and-mouth disease, Teagarden said. Tests analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture later confirmed the Animal Health Department's initial diagnosis.


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