TEN years on from the worst FMD outbreak in UK history, scientific experts and industry representatives attended a landmark conference held at Moredun Research Institute near Edinburgh earlier this month to discuss the significant role that vaccination could play in any future outbreak of disease.
More than 100 invited delegates - representing farmers, auctioneers, food processors, retailers, scientists, consumers, pharmaceutical companies, vets, Scottish and UK Governments, devolved administrations and Animal Health– attended the conference, titled “Foot and Mouth – Vaccine to Live”.
The tragedy of the FMD outbreak of 2001 left a scar on the industry that still haunts all those who were affected either directly or indirectly. The conference was a timely opportunity both to take stock of the lessons learned from that epidemic, and to look forward at how future control models may look, given the diagnostic advances that are now available and the new international and European framework for Foot and Mouth disease control.
Should the worst happen, and another FMD outbreak occur in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, a policy which sees animals vaccinated to control the disease and then enter the food chain may provide a viable alternative to the mass cull of animals seen during previous epidemics here.
Breakout sessions at the conference gave delegates the opportunity to discuss the practicalities of vaccine manufacture and distribution, when and how the vaccine could be used, challenges vaccination may present to the processing industry, likely consumer reaction and impact on exports, amongst others.
Simon Hall, chief veterinary officer for Scotland said: “This seminar has provided a shared understanding of protective vaccination in the face of a foot and mouth disease outbreak, and has been a good opportunity for us all to work together to identify solutions to perceived problems which may impede vaccination. A variety of stakeholders have come along today which has helped ensure that we look at this issue from a number of different angles”
Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, chief executive and director of Moredun commented: “The threat of foot and mouth disease remains a serious one. Detailed pre-outbreak planning is essential to minimize the effects of what can be a devastating disease. Moredun fully supports the results of the official enquiries into the 2001 outbreak, which recommend strongly that future contingency plans should incorporate emergency protective barrier or ring vaccination as an adjunct to the slaughter of clinical cases, as this would lead to a considerable reduction in the number of animals requiring to be slaughtered.”
Dr Peter Nettleton, leading veterinary virologist added: “Foot and Mouth vaccination is the modern alternative to mass slaughter. The use of vaccination to resolve the next outbreak could help to prevent the tragic scenes, social upheaval and psychological trauma that were witnessed 10 years ago.”
Nigel Miller, president of NFU Scotland, said: “The Vaccine to Live event was designed to stimulate sensible discussion on how we can exploit the new diagnostic tools that are available to us, and how we can open the door to a Vaccine to Live policy within Scotland and the UK.
“There is a real opportunity to build these innovations and flexibilities into our future contingency planning, to allow us to make improvements and avoid the tragedy of 2001. But to make it work we need buy-in; from farmers being prepared to vaccinate their animals, processors being prepared to handle meat and milk from vaccinated animals and consumers both at home and across Europe being prepared to buy it.
“Fundamentally, we must find a way to avoid the scenes of mass slaughter of 2001. The economic disruption caused by culling livestock from huge areas, and the scars that left on both individuals who were directly affected, and the wider countryside, is not something any of us want to see again. It is our duty as an industry to equip ourselves with the tools to ensure those scenes are not repeated.”