Foot-And-Mouth Precautions Planned For U.K. Fests

Britain's disease outbreak not expected to curtail outdoor music events, but disinfectant procedures could delay concertgoers' entry.

Concertgoers gearing up for Europe's annual string of outdoor music festivals should expect some hassle getting into the events — if they even happen.

Britain's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease — which has little or no effect on humans but is easily spread on clothing and causes drastic weight loss in cattle, sheep and pigs — has festival organizers planning precautionary measures, because those festivals could give the disease an opportunity to flourish, according to an expert.

"Promoters risk people dragging infection from all over the UK to one spot, thus endangering local farm animals and wildlife," said John Ryan of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease. "Another risk is the dissemination of the virus from those gatherings back to all parts of the UK and the world."

Although many of Europe's top sporting events, such as horse racing's Cheltenham Festival, have been cancelled, concert promoters expect that their festivals will go on.

Ireland's Live Entertainment Industry Association announced last week that all of its concert venues have implemented stringent disinfectant procedures suggested by Ireland's Department of Agriculture to prevent the outbreak from spreading there, including placing disinfectant mats at all venue entry- and exit-points and spraying all cars and buses controlled by the association's venues.

Ryan said there are ways promoters can avoid the spread of foot-and-mouth, besides cleaning footwear and vehicles (especially tires) and spraying them with disinfectant.

"Festivals should allow no one access if they have visited farms or zoos in the previous five days," Ryan said. "And they should keep extremely strict controls on food waste and sewage."

So far, no outbreaks have been reported outside of the UK.

Foot-and-mouth has not contaminated the site of Homelands, a club music festival scheduled for May 26 and 27 at Matterley Bowl in Hampshire, England. Promoter Melvin Benn said he is working to keep it that way.

"The event field has not had cattle or animals for over five months," Benn said. "The foot-and-mouth outbreak is not going to change anything."

Homelands will feature several dozen acts, including Orbital, Pulp and Paul van Dyk. Mean Fiddler, the company behind the Reading and Leeds Carling festivals, organizes Homelands.

Promoters for T in the Park, who have not announced the dates for their late-summer festival, said in a statement they are monitoring the foot-and-mouth situation and taking advice from those working against the spread of the disease.

"The vast majority of the land where T in the Park takes place is not used for livestock farming, and the main arena is a disused airfield," the promoters' statement said. "However, organizers will be taking all responsible and appropriate steps in the five-month lead-time to this year's event."

Foot-and-mouth last hit the UK in 1967 and took more than six months to bring under control. The disease appears to be spreading rapidly this time, as a record 25 cases were reported Sunday, bringing the current total to nearly 170, according to Reuters.