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Foot-and-mouth crises could be averted with vaccination strategy


Friday 17 February 2017


Future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) can be controlled effectively and quickly with vaccinations - saving millions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of livestock - according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Dr Michael Tildesley and Naomi Bradbury from the School of Life Sciences have discovered that a key issue for successfully containing and eradicating a FMD outbreak is to establish how many animals can be vaccinated per day, and tailor controls accordingly.

Using a mathematical model of the UK farming landscape, Dr Tildesley and colleagues simulated numerous scenarios of infection - to varying levels of severity and speed - calculating the most effective and efficient approaches to stave the spread of disease.

Many dangerous uncertainties exist when dealing with epidemics like FMD, such as: the efficacy of vaccinations, the time it takes for livestock to become immune after receiving vaccines, and the number of vaccine doses available. Uncertainty leads to huge potential losses of both money and livestock.

The most recent major outbreak in the UK, in 2001, cost the UK economy an estimated £8 billion and led to the culling of approximately seven million livestock.

The Warwick FMD model demonstrates that the major uncertainty to be resolved is how many vaccine doses are available. If this is known, the infection can be contained efficiently - even when faced with all other unknown factors.

Using the Warwick FMD model and confirming what vaccination capacity exists, researchers said the UK could save up to £50 million, and around 200,000 animals could be spared from culling in any future epidemic.

Furthermore, they believe any outbreak combatted using a tailored approach to vaccination can generally be eradicated almost a week sooner than previous outbreaks.

Dr Michael Tildesley commented, ”There is always uncertainty in the likely effectiveness of any control strategy for an infectious disease outbreak. However in the case of FMD, if we can accurately determine the daily capacity to vaccinate animals, we can potentially save millions of pounds for the farming industry."


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