New scheme to contain FMD

UK scientists claim to have found a way to speedily identify livestock at risk of infection from foot-and-mouth disease.

Researchers said they have created a simple risk model to identify cattle at risk from the airborne spread of the virus. They created the system, which they believe can be automated, by combining weather and livestock information collected during the 1967 FMD outbreak.

The results of their work have been published in the Journal of the Royal Society.

Dr Schley from the Pirbright Laboratory at the Institute for Animal Health said that while strict controls on disinfection and animal and people movements would restrict the spread of FMD, airborne transmission was much harder to control.

He told the BBC: "All we can do is try to detect and contain such transmissions afterwards."

The scientists used NAME in their study - a system that has been developed by the UK Meteorological Office to predict the weather.

They also incorporated details about the source of the virus - including the number of animals infected and then tested the scheme by applying it to the recent 2007 outbreak in Surrey.

The scientists are now calling for improved data: "We know where the owner of the animals lives, but that is slightly different from knowing where the animal is. If that information was available you could make some useful and powerful predictions in terms of risk," said Dr Schley.

He said the level of information they required was already being gathered in countries like New Zealand.

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