There are some bears at Pirbright running around with sore heads at the moment concerning the information that reached the public domain today to the effect that someone who works at the Institute of Animal Health part of the Pirbright site has recently been a victim of Legionnaires disease.

The IAH, which has, along with the government furiously been pointing the finger at Merial, the operator of the commercial part of the site, as the progenitor of the Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak, now suddenly found itself on the back foot. Given the body language of their spokesman who came out and made a statement at the premises today, the IAH is deeply miffed at this turn of events.

The Health Protection Agency has tested for the disease at the IAH and has apparently found samples of the bacterium. IAH insists that the amount found is ‘insignificant’ and at a ‘background level’. What, however, is striking is that neither it nor the HPA has said that it was impossible to become infected by the small amount that was in fact found. And, one is bound to ask, is it impossible to catch Legionnaires’ Disease from the level actually found? Surely one bacterium ought to be enough.

The HPA is also saying that there is no link between Legionnaires’ Disease and FMD. In strict terms that is entirely right: the one is a bacterium which causes disease in humans and the other is a virus which causes disease in animals (and very very rarely in humans).

But, as I pointed out earlier today, there may be a link in this sense, that Legionnaires’ Disease is frequently found in air-conditioning systems that are either faulty or unclean and one potential means of egress of the FMD virus is via a malfunctioning air-conditioning system. It also raises the general issue of overall cleanliness of the IAH: this facility is supposed to be one of the cleanest you can get from the point of view of microbes. If Legionnaires’ Disease can be found there, does this point to a serious lapse in cleanliness standards at the IAH Lab?

The BBC also reported this evening that the Labs are built in an area prone to surface water flooding and were apparently built, or allowed to remain where they were, in defiance of guidelines about not building such facilities in areas susceptible to flooding. That, if FMD is shown to have escaped because of flooding, will be a most grave matter which will undoubtedly redound on this Labour kakistocracy.

The strong sense of finger-pointing going on makes one utterly cynical about this exercise. This is one matter where we need not spin, spin, spin but a little bit of what was once, before the likes of Alistair Campbell so debauched the process of Government Information, called ‘Truth’.

UPDATE: I am told that a 3 KM Temporary Control Zone around OS Grid reference TQ 118473 has been declared wef 21:15 hours this evening. This appears to be a farm between Wooton and Abinger Hammer on the A25 from Guildford to Dorking, that is east of Guildford where the original outbreaks were to the west of Guildford. This will deeply alarm the farming community as it suggests that there may have been no successful containment so far.

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