Mar 16, 2001
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The oldest motorcycle road race in the world--the Isle of Man TT--is in danger of being postponed, or possibly canceled, due to an outbreak of Foot And Mouth Disease (aka Hoof And Mouth Disease)in the United Kingdom. According to British news reports, the Isle Of Man has been unaffected so far by the livestock epidemic that is crippling Great Britain's international trade, and some Isle of Man officials want to keep things that way by postponing or canceling the 2001 TT. <BR><BR>Although island officials have already refused delivery of a shipment of 5000 haybales from England for use on the TT mountain course, no official word of cancellation or postponement has been issued by the Manx government. The 95th Isle of Man TT is still scheduled to take place May 26 through June 8 despite an ongoing disagreement between Minister of Tourism and Leisure David Cretney and Minister of Agriculture Alex Downie. Cretney wants to monitor the situation daily until the middle of April before making any decision on cancelling or postponing the TT. Downie wants the races postponed now to protect the island's agricultural business, which is second only to tourism in impact on the Isle's economy. Downie has asked Cretney to develop contingency plans to postpone the races but has also publicly acknowledged threats from Isle of Man farmers to block roads with their equipment if the races are held.<BR><BR>Other than in time of war, the Isle of Man TT races have only been postponed once before. That postponement was in 1966 during a national seaman's strike, which disrupted transportation to and from the island.<BR><BR>Foot and Mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease affecting animals including cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, buffaloes and deer. The disease is not usually lethal to adult animals, but is deadly to younger animals.The United States and Canada have banned agricultural products coming from the entire European Union, and authorities in England have ordered that 300,000 animals be killed, burned and buried, and the movement of animals in or from affected areas has also been banned.<BR><BR>Foot and Mouth disease is very contagious and is spread by contact and through the air, and the virus can be carried by wind and infect animals miles away from its original source. The virus can also survive in fresh, frozen and cured meats and in non-pasteurized dairy products. The good news is that the disease has only a mild effect on humans.<BR><BR>The only way to control the disease is through quarantine and by killing and burning animals that have been infected or have been in contact with infected animals, followed by cleaning and disinfecting the premises.<BR><BR>Indicating just how seriously the United Kingdom is taking the Foot and Mouth disease problem, the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) in England (which puts on the Isle of Man TT races) has canceled all off-road motorcycle riding events, Scotland has placed its most famous sheep – Dolly the cloned sheep – in special quarantine, and Ireland has canceled the largest St. Patrick's Day parade. The opening rounds of the Irish road racing season have also been postponed.<BR><BR>Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are requiring that travelers who have been on farms in affected areas overseas disinfect their footware upon arrival at U.S. airports. At some airports travelers are required to wipe their shoes with an alcohol and water solution, while a bleach-and-water spray is being used at other airports.