In February 2001, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was confirmed in Great Britain. A major epidemic developed, which peaked around 50 cases a day in late March, declining to under 10 a day by May. By mid-July, 1849 cases had been detected. The main control measures employed were livestock movement restrictions and the rapid slaughter of infected and exposed livestock. The first detected case was in south-east England; infection was traced to a farm in north-east England to which all other cases were linked. The epidemic was large as a result of a combination of events, including a delay in the diagnosis of the index case, the movement of infected sheep to market before FMD was first diagnosed, and the time of year. Virus was introduced at a time when there were many sheep movements around the country and weather conditions supported survival of the virus. The consequence was multiple, effectively primary, introductions of FMD virus into major sheep-keeping areas. Subsequent local spread from these introductions accounted for the majority of cases. The largest local epidemics were in areas with dense sheep populations and livestock dealers who were active during the key period. Most affected farms kept both sheep and cattle. At the time of writing the epidemic was still ongoing; however, this paper provides a basis for scientific discussion of the first five months.
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