Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom.

Richard P Kitching, Michael Thrusfield, Nick M Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a major threat, not only to countries whose
economies rely on agricultural exports, but also to industrialised countries that
maintain a healthy domestic livestock industry by eliminating major infectious
diseases from their livestock populations. Traditional methods of controlling
diseases such as FMD require the rapid detection and slaughter of infected
animals, and any susceptible animals with which they may have been in contact,
either directly or indirectly. During the 2001 epidemic of FMD in the United
Kingdom (UK), this approach was supplemented by a culling policy driven by
unvalidated predictive models. The epidemic and its control resulted in the death
of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the
slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including
vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a
salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)293
Number of pages1
JournalRevue scientifique et technique (International Office of Epizootics)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • culling
  • epidemiology
  • Foot and Mouth Disease
  • infectivty
  • Mathematical model
  • modelling
  • slaughter
  • Stamping out
  • transmission
  • United Kingdom
  • Virus spread

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