Ireland moves to quell hoof-and-mouth fears

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NEW YORK -- The Irish Tourist Board is taking steps to assure North American visitors that Ireland's one confirmed case of hoof-and-mouth disease won't ruin anyone's vacation plans -- in the cities or in the countryside.

"There are a lot of misconceptions out there and we are afraid that [potential] visitors have the wrong idea," said a tourist board spokeswoman, who added that Ireland should not be lumped in with Great Britain, where outbreaks of the livestock disease have reached epidemic proportions and have prompted widespread government travel restrictions.

"We are in the process of forming a [campaign] to combat the misconception," she said, adding that it would be targeted to consumers and to the travel trade.

"People still seem to be confusing Mad Cow disease with hoof-and-mouth," she noted.

Acknowledging that there have been some cancelations of trips and some postponements, the spokeswoman said that the single confirmed case of hoof-and-mouth, in County Louth, is in the original seclusion zone created more than a month ago near the border with Northern Ireland.

"We've had no other cases anywhere else in the republic," she said.

According to the tourist board Web site, located at www.irelandvacations.com, inland cruising is operating normally, and most golf courses are open.


Castles and museums in and around Dublin and throughout the countryside are open as are tourist sites such as the Waterford Crystal Visitor Center, mill and woolen museums, gardens and dozens of rural cultural and craft centers, many of which are stops on escorted motorcoach and self-drive itineraries.

The Web site also tells visitors that, as precautions, the national parks remain closed for now, and that off-road cycling and hill walking are being discouraged. The Dublin zoo also is closed.

Jim McGuigan, the tourist board's executive vice president for North America, added that "nearly all accommodations are open," including bed-and-breakfast inns in rural areas.

The Web site advises visitors to check with the proprietors of inns if there is any doubt as to whether they are operating normally.

McGuigan, who noted that the republic receives 1 million visitors from North America, said tourists can "continue to enjoy the beauty of the destination, its varied attractions and sites and above all, the traditional Irish welcome."

Americans traveling to Ireland from the U.S. won't notice any unusual entry requirements, but visitors from the U.K. and the European continent are having to walk over disinfectant mats at air and sea ports, the tourist board said, because the hoof-and-mouth virus can inadvertently be spread by people coming out of infected areas.

France and the Netherlands also have confirmed cases of the disease.

The Irish Tourist Board is regularly posting news updates regarding hoof-and-mouth on its Web site, and details of the planned tourism campaign are expected soon.

Disease's impact continues

Although Ireland appears virtually unaffected, hoof-and-mouth disease continues to have an impact on travel and tourism elsewhere. Several reports follow.

  • Disneyland Paris banned horse-drawn carriages and quarantined most animals susceptible to the disease after it was found in a town less than 25 miles from the park, according to published reports. The Wild West Show, which involves horses and buffaloes, remains open, but visitors must walk on disinfectant mats to enter and exit the show.
  • United said customers who want to change their travel plans to Great Britain can get a travel credit or postpone their trip without penalty.
  • Operators of tours into Britain are not changing their cancellation policies to conform with airlines that are waiving cancellation fees. The operators are reporting that most calls of concern have not turned into cancellations.
  • "We're spending a lot of time on the telephone ... trying to explain there is no reason to cancel. People can't get hoof-and-mouth disease," said Peter McCormack, president of Insight Vacations. "After we explain that there is no danger, most of them say, 'OK, I thought it was something else,' " said Brian Stack, president of CIE Tours.

  • Canada boosted surveillance of air passengers and baggage arriving on international flights.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency requested that travelers cooperate with disinfectant and search procedures at ports of entry.

    Officials said that travelers who visit a farm before entering Canada should make sure that clothing and footwear worn during the visit is disinfected.

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