Hoof-and-mouth disease alarms Europe officials

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DUBLIN -- Parts of Europe are in a tizzy over hoof-and-mouth disease. But don't worry, it's not contagious to humans.

The disease, which is affecting cloven-hoofed animals like pigs and cows, is threatening to bring Britain's farming community to ruin and has government agriculture officials worried from Ireland to Italy to France.

From a tourism perspective, there are some potential ramifications. If the crisis, which so far has affected a dozen British farms, continues and worsens, spring walking and hiking tours in the countryside might have to be curtailed. That's because the disease is airborne and can be transmitted to animals in other countries on the clothing and cars of people coming out of a contaminated area.

Already, cars from certain parts of Britain, including Devon and Northumberland, are being disinfected at roadblocks.

City dwellers in Britain are being asked to stay out of the countryside altogether until the crisis abates, and some sporting events have been canceled. Authorities are considering now whether to cancel the famous Cheltenham horse race, scheduled for late March.

In Ireland, imports of cattle and farm equipment from the British-controlled north have been banned.

On the Continent, government officials are poised to take action should the disease spread across the English Channel.

Travelers to France almost certainly will be subject to disinfectant procedures at airports and seaports. People's shoes can be rid of the airborne disease by walking on disinfectant mats.

But human precautions might not do the trick -- the disease also is carried by the wind.

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