New study into fighting foot and mouth disease

Global - FMD TD Farm
STRATEGY: New strategy to fight FMD outbreaks. (Photo: Ben Gamble/Wikipedia)

FUTURE outbreaks of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease can be combatted quickly and efficiently from early on – when authorities have minimal information – using a new real-time strategy developed by the University of Warwick.

Researchers discovered the most effective policies for the start of an FMD outbreak, even when little is known about it, are focusing on surveillance and vaccination.

Determining the optimal strategy to control FMD can be challenging in the first weeks of an epidemic, due to uncertainty about the nature of the outbreak and how the disease will be spread.

Researchers Michael Tildesley and William Probert used data from previous FMD outbreaks – the UK in 2001 and Japan in 2010. The UK outbreak saw 2,026 FMD cases and more than six million cows and sheep were culled.

Tildesley and Probert simulated the spread of disease, and at each stage of the outbreak analysed the real-time efficacy of multiple different approaches.

These included culling only infected farms; culling infected farms, plus farms designated as dangerous contact; culling infected farms, dangerous contact farms and neighbouring farms; ring culling at three kilometres, and at 10 km; vaccination at 3 km and at 10 km.

The researchers conclude that, owing to the spatial uncertainty in model predictions during the early stages of an epidemic, targeted surveillance is crucial to allow authorities to gain information and resolve uncertainty as quickly as possible, ultimately better controlling the spread of the disease earlier.

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