Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK have developed a new real-time strategy that could help future foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease outbreaks be combatted quickly and efficiently. Drs Michael Tildesley and William Probert discovered that the most effective policies for an FMD outbreak are focusing on surveillance and vaccination.
The team’s goal was to overcome uncertainty regarding determining how to control FMD, enabling disease spread to be controlled more rapidly and effectively. They used data from previous FMD outbreaks to simulate the spread of disease and analysed the real-time efficacy of different approaches at each stage of the outbreak. These approaches included: culling only infected farms; culling infected farms, plus farms designated as dangerous contact; culling infected farms, dangerous contact farms and neighbouring farms; ring culling at three kilometres, and 10 kilometres; and vaccination at three kilometres, and 10 kilometres.
The researchers found local targeted approaches (culling of infected premises and ring vaccination around confirmed infected farms) to be the most effective, while ring culling was never an effective method. They therefore concluded that targeted surveillance is crucial to allow authorities to gain information and resolve uncertainty as quickly as possible, ultimately better controlling the spread of the disease. “This work highlights both the limitations and the benefits of using an infectious disease model in real time, during an ongoing outbreak. It is crucial for policymakers to employ surveillance to resolve uncertainty in how the disease is spreading as rapidly as possible, as this may have significant implications upon our ability to predict future epidemic behaviour,” they said.