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The 2001 epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom: epidemiological and meteorological case studies
  1. J. Gloster1,
  2. H. J. Champion, BSc, MPhil1,
  3. L. M. Mansley, BVMS, MVM, MRCVS2,
  4. P. Romero, BVM, MRCVS3,
  5. T. Brough, BVM&S, MRCVS4 and
  6. A. Ramirez, MPH, MRCVS5
  1. 1Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, Devon EX1 3PB
  2. 2Scottish Executive, Environment and Rural Affairs Department, Animal Health DivisionalOffice, Strathearn House, Broxden Business Park, Lamberkine Drive, Perth PH1 1RX
  3. 3Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
  4. 4Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Animal Health Divisional Office, Hadrian House, Wavell Drive, Carlisle CA1 2TB
  5. 5Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Animal Health Area Office, Government Buildings, Kenton Bar, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE20 9TB


The possibility of the airborne spread of foot-and-mouth disease during the 2001 epidemic in the UK has been investigated in three epidemiological case studies. On the basis of evidence from field investigations, and a simple meteorological analysis, it is concluded that the spread of disease was consistent with the airborne transport of virus. The distances ranged from less than 1 km to 16 km; six of the farms were over 6 km from the source and involved the passage of virus over the sea combined with meteorological conditions which strongly favoured airborne disease transmission. The results of detailed atmospheric modelling demonstrated that airborne virus could have challenged livestock on all the farms studied. However, with one exception the 24-hour average daily concentrations of the virus were significantly below the experimentally estimated threshold for infection. A detailed model intercomparison established that, under stable atmospheric conditions, peak concentrations of virus up to two orders of magnitude higher might have been experienced for short periods, owing to fluctuations within the plume of virus, and model limitations. This finding would significantly reduce the apparent discrepancy between the experimentally estimated threshold for infection and the modelling results.

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  • Mr Gloster’s present address is Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright Laboratory, Ash Road, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey GU21 0NF

  • Ms Ramirez’s present address is Ecology and Epidemiology Group, Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL

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