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Descriptive epidemiology of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in Great Britain: the first five months
  1. J. C. Gibbens, BVetMed, MSc, MSc, MRCVS1,
  2. J. W. Wilesmith, BVSc, MRCVS,HonMFPHM1,
  3. C. E. Sharpe, BVetMed, MSc, MRCVS2,
  4. L. M. Mansley, BVMS, MVM, MRCVS3,
  5. E. Michalopoulou, DVM, MRCVS4,
  6. J. B. M. Ryan, BEd, MIBiol5 and
  7. M. Hudson, BVMS, BSc, DipVM, MRCVS6
  1. 1 State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, IA Page Street, London SWIP 4PQ
  2. 2 State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, Windsor House, Cornwall Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HGI 2PW
  3. 3 State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, Animal Health Division, Hadrian House, Wavell Drive, Rosehill Industrial Estate, Carlisle CAI 2TB
  4. 4 State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, Animal Health Division, Beeches Road, Chelmsford CM1 2RU
  5. 5 Epidemiology Department, Veterinary Laboratories Agency-Weybridge, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB
  6. 6 State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, Animal Health Office, Government Buildings, Kenton Bar, Newcastle upon Tyne NEI 2YA
  1. Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT


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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