The role of pre-emptive culling in the control of foot-and-mouth disease

Michael J. Tildesley, Paul R. Bessell, Matt J. Keeling, Mark E. J. Woolhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic was controlled by culling of infectious premises and preemptive culling intended to limit the spread of disease. Of the control strategies adopted, routine culling of farms that were contiguous to infected premises caused the most controversy. Here we perform a retrospective analysis of the culling of contiguous premises as performed in 2001 and a simulation study of the effects of this policy on reducing the number of farms affected by disease. Our simulation results support previous studies and show that a national policy of contiguous premises (CPs) culling leads to fewer farms losing livestock. The optimal national policy for controlling the 2001 epidemic is found to be the targeting of all contiguous premises, whereas for localized outbreaks in high animal density regions, more extensive fixed radius ring culling is optimal. Analysis of the 2001 data suggests that the lowest-risk CPs were generally prioritized for culling, however, even in this case, the policy is predicted to be effective. A sensitivity analysis and the development of a spatially heterogeneous policy show that the optimal culling level depends upon the basic reproductive ratio of the infection and the width of the dispersal kernel. These analyses highlight an important and probably quite general result: optimal control is highly dependent upon the distance over which the pathogen can be transmitted, the transmission rate of infection and local demography where the disease is introduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3239-3248
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1671
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2009


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