‘Close the countryside’: the spread of foot and mouth

stopping the spread of disease in livestock

The University of Warwick researchers have presented a new economic perspective on controlling livestock diseases in the UK.

During the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the movement of cattle, sheep and other livestock was essentially banned in order to prevent the infection spreading to other farms. The movement of livestock was banned again after an outbreak of blue tongue virus.

Movement bans can have a gargantuan ranging impact on farmers. Research published on August 19, 2019, found that the current UK government policy, of implementing a widespread ban of moving livestock, may cause unnecessary and irreparable economic damage.

Researchers argue that whilst livestock movement presents a risk of further infection, the risk seemingly only applies to farms in a close proximity to points of infection. Therefore, a movement ban that only applies to near by farms would be more financially viable.

Dr Mike Tildesley, of Warwick’s Zeeman Institute for Systems Biology and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research (SBIDER). Dr Tildesley and the research team used state of the art predictive models to examine the consequences of different control options.

Dr Tildesley said:“Our research says that movement controls need to be carefully matched to both the epidemiological and economic consequences of the disease, and optimal movement bans are often far shorter than existing policy.

“For example, our work suggests that movement bans of between 15-60km are optimal for FMD (with larger radii preferable if tourism losses can be ignored), while for BTV the optimal policy is to allow all movements”

“Adopting these optimal movement bans could lead to vast savings compared to more stringent policies. We fully recognise the need for the government to rapidly contain novel outbreaks in the face of uncertainty, but our work suggests that optimal movement bans should be enacted as soon as possible.”

If the research is implemented in government policy, farmers could potentially save a great deal of money at the time of widespread infection.

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