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Animal illness spurs Irish to cancel parade

LONDON — Ireland called off its biggest St. Patrick's Day parade and Scotland quarantined its most famous sheep — Dolly, the clone — as foot-and-mouth disease marched across the United Kingdom.

Britain and Ireland took increasingly severe measures Thursday to contain the livestock virus as agriculture officials confirmed six new cases, including the first in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The total areas infected stood at 32.

In the latest round of cancellations and curtailments, organizers of St. Patrick's Day festivities in Dublin headed a government plea and called off the country's biggest annual event — a parade through the capital's streets that was expected to draw 500,000 spectators.

The cancelation came late Thursday after an emergency meeting of the festival committee. Spokeswoman Maria Moynihan had earlier lamented that "a cancellation would leave an enormous gap" in the holiday.

The farming-intensive Irish Republic, desperate to avoid the disease, also called off all weekend sporting events. Britain's biggest dog show, Crufts, was another major event canceled by the outbreak.

Foot-and-mouth — which sickens only cloven-hoofed creatures like pigs, cattle and sheep but can be spread by just about anything that moves — hasn't crossed the border into the republic, but cases turned up at a farm along the frontier, prompting fears that it would soon spread south.

Irish police on Friday sealed off a farm in County Louth, about 20 miles south of the border with Northern Ireland. Officials said they were concerned that sheep at the farm had been in contact with animals at the farm in Northern Ireland where foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed on Thursday.

With the virus already confirmed at two locations in Scotland, the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh quarantined Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, and closed its doors to visitors.

Cloned animals are believed to be more susceptible to disease, but institute professor Ian Wilmut said Thursday the precautions for Dolly were not much different from those taken by livestock farmers.

A weeklong ban on movement of livestock within Britain began to affect supermarkets Thursday as major chain Asda said one of its largest northern stores had run out of pork and lamb.

Amid fears that the disease would spread to continental Europe — thousands of British-exported animals have been destroyed in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, although no cases have yet been found — human visitors from Britain were beginning to feel a bit unwelcome as well.

On Thursday, Portugal announced anyone arriving from the United Kingdom would have to dip their shoes in disinfectant. In French ports, authorities sprayed the tires of arriving trucks with disinfectant. In Cyprus, passengers arriving from Britain had to walk over a carpet treated with disinfectants.

China banned imports of British cattle and other cloven-footed animals on Friday.

Fearful even of uneaten sandwiches, the British government reminded people leaving the country that a blanket ban on exporting meat or milk applies to personal travelers as well.

In New Zealand, a woman who returned home from Britain without telling customs staff she had visited a Scottish farm was facing possible criminal charges Friday.

The woman, Jenny Wood, is being questioned over an alleged false declaration on a quarantine questionnaire that asks, among other things, whether people entering New Zealand have visited a farm in the last 30 days.