Infectious Disease in Livestock Inquiry Follow-Up Review

21 December 2004

Towards the end of the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic, the Royal Society was commissioned by the Government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Office of Science and Technology) to undertake a review of the scientific aspects of the control of infectious diseases in livestock. This was one of three commissioned investigations, the others being the Lessons Learned inquiry undertaken by Sir Iain Anderson and the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, chaired by Sir Donald Curry. The Royal Societys inquiry was undertaken by a committee chaired by Sir Brian Follett FRS, and was explicitly charged with looking to future developments. It reported in July 2002 and can be accessed here.

The Royal Society Infectious Diseases in Livestock Inquiry follow-up review was published on 21 December 2004. The review highlights considerable work has been undertaken by UK Government, since to 2001 outbreak, to combat future outbreaks of livestock disease, but the challenge now is to resolve outstanding issues.  Below is a summary of areas which require further attention, largely building on work already in progress.

  • The surveillance arrangements.
  • The arrangements for active Parliamentary scrutiny of the contingency plans, possibly by the Environment, Food and Rural Affair Select Committee.
  • The arrangements for a wider interim review of arrangements for handling infectious diseases in livestock.
  • The capture and handling of data during an outbreak.
  • The completion of the various projects analysing the data from the 2001 outbreak and other research to inform the decision making process on whether pre-emptive action beyond the culling of infected premises and dangerous contacts is required to control the outbreak.
  • The structure of technical input into the handling of an outbreak of an infectious disease.
  • Further action to ensure that emergency vaccination is a viable option for pre-emptive action, including the validation of Non Structural Protein (NSP) tests and a better understanding of the implications of vaccination by all stakeholders.
  • The development of portable RT-PCR diagnostic equipment that can be used in the field and sensitive enough to detect virus in pre-clinical cases.
  • The need to ensure that animal health research is given the support it requires and is co-ordinated with support provided by research councils.
  • Training, especially of farm workers and an increase in the overall number of large animal veterinarians.

 Finally, any outstanding problems over the use of emergency vaccination as a pre-emptive measure need to be resolved.