A panel set up by the British government to study the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak in the United Kingdom released its report in July. It criticized the government for not acting more quickly to bring the outbreak under control, and recommended that in the future the government vaccinate animals on farms near any outbreak.
The British government relied exclusively on a strategy killing both diseased animals and all livestock within a 1.5 kilometer radius. More than 4 million animals were slaughtered during the 11 months that the disease spread among British livestock.
The Royal Society report recommends killing diseased animals and vaccinating nearby animals. But that strategy was rejected because of fears that it would result in a long-term ban on British meat exports. The problem with existing vaccines is that vaccinated animals can be carriers of the disease even though they do not show any symptoms.
Countries which are free of the disease, such as the United States, generally require that imported meat be certified as free of foot-and-mouth. A vaccination strategy would prolong the term that such countries would ban the import of British meat. In fact, ironically the report recommends that European Union countries strengthen their regulations on meat imports.
The Royal Society report criticized the government for not banning the movement of farm animals quickly after the epidemic started, and urged the government to create regulations that minimize the movement of farm animals in general. The report estimated that a three day delay in stopping the movement of livestock probably doubled the number of animals that had to be killed.
Foot-and-mouth’s painful lessons. Alex Kirby, The BBC, July 16, 2002.
Scientists call for vaccination strategy. The BBC, July 16, 2002.
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