Epidemic now 'fully under control', says chief scientist

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The foot-and-mouth epidemic is now "fully under control" and the current policy of slaughtering more than 1.5 million animals is clearly working, according to the Government's chief scientific adviser.

The foot-and-mouth epidemic is now "fully under control" and the current policy of slaughtering more than 1.5 million animals is clearly working, according to the Government's chief scientific adviser.

And two counties formerly infected with the disease, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, have been declared officially disease-free.

The Royal Family are lending their support to the drive to buttress Britain's multi-billion pound tourist industry against the damage threatened by foot and mouth disease.

Following the Prince of Wales's financial efforts to support farmers hit by the outbreak, the Duke of Edinburgh was entertaining world tourism chiefs on an "open for business" tour of the countryside.

Professor David King, chief scientific adviser, has confidently asserted that the spread of the disease was now well past its peak and that the draconian culling policy should have eradicated it within the next few months.

"On the basis of the fall in the number of cases being reported, the epidemic is now fully under control," he said. His optimism is based on an analysis of the "decay rate" of the epidemic, which shows that the number of new cases reported each day is being halved every two weeks.

A daily average this week for the number of new cases is running at about 22, compared with an average of 43 at the peak of the epidemic about two weeks ago. At this rate there should be just one new case a day by 7 June ­ the likely date of the general election. New cases are arising at a slower rate than was predicted by teams of scientists in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

Culling all livestock on an infected premise within 24 hours of it being detected and on neighbouring farms within 48 hours ­ the so-called 24-48 hour policy ­ is having the desired effect, he said. For an epidemic to be under control, each case needs to infect an average of less than one other farm. The average at the moment is 0.7.

Professor King's scientific advisory committee on the disease met vets and farmers' leaders yesterday to explain why vaccination would limit the cull, but would not halt the spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that parts of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire that had been "infected areas" were no longer designated in that way.

Comments