Ruth Watkins, the virologist who, like so many of us, has been watching the progress of the foot and mouth outbreak with such pain, says inthis email today that a very useful web site contains a slide showing the timeline of the first 7 IPs (slide number 12).
If an epidemiologist looked at it, it should strike him that if we had vaccinated immediately upon finding the IP 3 at Egham (having the vaccinators on standby and some 300,000 doses of vaccine ready) infection at IP 7 and IP 8 could have been prevented."
She adds that it seems as though the effect of DEFRA's policy on farming has been disproportionate even if tourism has not been quite as badly hit as in 2001. She feels that "DEFRA employees haven't read the reports following the 2001 outbreak and still think of "costs" as being those that DEFRA would shell out to put vaccinator teams on standby and doses of vaccine at the ready - ie internal costs."
Since FMD is not endemic in Western Europe, routine vaccination is not therefore necessary - which is why there are the banks of vaccine to all serotypes of FMD kept at the ready to use for emergency vaccination to control an incursion, or escape from a laboratory.
As for bluetongue: "UK farmers haven't understood the implications of declaring GB as a BT zone... "
The problem, says Sabine Zentis, (not only an expert in this disease but also a prize-winning breeder of English Longhorns) is that UK farmers haven't understood the implications of declaring GB as a BT zone so that internal movements can happen. Next year things are going to be very much worse.
Frau Zentis writes,
This might be due to the fact that Fred Landeg was quoted as saying that the disease might die out during the winter. The NFU chairman of the Suffolk National Farmers' Union should look over his fence; he's seen only the start of BT but by next year he's going to have to prepare himself for real losses.October 6th ~ "movements straight to abattoirs outside the restricted zones should be permitted as soon as possible."
Landeg is repeating the same wishful thinking that has been the main policy in Germany and he seems to ignore the fact that this disease just doesn't go away because a vet says so...
Sabine Zentis says," There is no risk involved if animals are slaughtered within a short period of time, say 24 hours."
But plans to resume movement country wide without vector surveillance showing that no culicoides are active because of low temperatures are extremely unwise. While it might seem fine in the UK this year with a low viral load and perhaps not too many culicoides infected, it would be a recipe for disaster next year. Such free movements would increase the spread of BT enormously.
The consequences of a massive outbreak as in Northern Europe this year have been an absolute disaster for the sheep sector. On dairy farms even cows are dying of BTV 8 with some farmers losing on average 2 animals per week.
Since it is so important to prevent regions from getting infected by multiple serotypes, BT affected farmers can't export into free regions or regions under restrictions for another serotype. There is no cross protection between the 24 different serotypes. A different serotype can cause severe losses to cattle.
However, between the regions affected by the same serotype there are no restrictions in trade. Once the FMD restrictions are lifted the UK will be able to export animals from the BT restricted areas to all areas within the EU affected by the SAME serotype ( zone F). A note of caution from Frau Zentis:
"The legislation is very clear on lifting of restrictions to regain the status: country or region free of BT: a country has to prove by surveillance that for TWO YEARS no virus has been circulating."
Thus the UK must be free from BTV circulation during 2008 and 2009 if restrictions are to be lifted in 2010.