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Foot & Mouth Disease

Mark Orwoll, seasoned traveler and Travel + Leisure's Managing Editor, is here to help you with your travel questions. Think of him as your personal concierge, and ask away...

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Q. We are planning to go to London or Paris this May or June. I am concerned about foot-and-mouth disease. I realize that humans do not get foot-and-mouth disease, but I am concerned that it may restrict or interfere with travel in these countries. Do you suggest that we wait and travel at a later date or do you think that these problems will not cause us difficulty at this time?

A. Considering that your primary destinations are big cities, you face little or no chance that your travels will be disrupted--at least, as things stand now, in early April 2001. Outbreaks have been reported in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and the Netherlands, but so far tourism has been affected only in the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland. That can change at any moment, though, if more outbreaks are reported in continental Europe.

For now, the English and Irish countrysides are most impacted by the disease, a debilitating illness that affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, sheep, and pigs. The disease is not fatal to humans, but can be carried unwittingly by humans. In order to keep humans from spreading the disease, some rural areas of Ireland and England have been closed to visitors. Many footpaths were closed, but hundreds will soon be reopened in time for the spring and summer hiking season.

Anyone using a footpath in England should follow the advice from the U.K. government's News Co-ordination Centre:

* If you keep or handle farm livestock you are requested not to enter or cross other farmland.
* Avoid contact with sheep, cows, goats, pigs or farm and parkland deer and do not feed them.
* Do not enter enclosed fields with sheep, cows, goats or pigs.
* If you come across them unexpectedly, walk away slowly.
* If necessary re-trace your steps rather than crossing the field.
* Do not leave any waste food or litter.
* Keep dogs on a lead at all times. Do not take dogs on land with cows, sheep, goats and pigs.
* Use disinfectant where provided.
* You can also freely drive, cycle, ride and walk along tarmac roads and visit country towns, villages and seaside resorts. Where sites are open, you can also stay in caravans or tents, or go sailing, rowing or canoeing.

You can get the latest news of reopening attractions, along with some useful links, at the News Co-ordination Centre (http://www.co-ordination.gov.uk/foot_attractions.htm)

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