Read as html file the Report of the research carried out by Lancaster University, and funded by £259,000 from the Department of Health
Yorkshire Today Oct 7 2005
'Foot and mouth' nightmare continuesPaul Jeeves
RURAL communities in Yorkshire, blighted by the foot-and-mouth crisis, have been plagued with nightmares and harrowing flashbacks, a Government-funded study reveals today.
The trauma and suffering of people affected more than four years ago had gone largely unnoticed until now, but researchers have unearthed a catalogue of psychological problems felt by those caught up in the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The report, the most comprehensive study ever on the social effects caused by foot and mouth, is published online by the British Medical Journal today and has detailed problems felt in the disaster's aftermath.
The effects have been identified as classic human reactions to extreme trauma, and included flashbacks, nightmares, uncontrollable emotion, conflict within communities and increased social isolation.
In the longer term, evidence emerged of stress, anxieties about emissions from disposal sites for animal carcasses, the loss of confidence in the Government and local authorities, confusion, bitterness and increased fear of unemployment.
Up to 10m animals were slaughtered in the UK, and the disaster caused widespread disruption and closure of much of the countryside for more than a year. North Yorkshire itself saw 134 recorded cases of foot and mouth, which led to the slaughter of 369,978 animals. The first Yorkshire case was confirmed at Claire and William Lambert's Raygill House Farm near Hawes on March 7, 2001.
Mrs Lambert said: "It was totally devastating at the time, and the effects were felt a long time afterwards. We had sleepless nights worrying about what was going to happen to us and the wider community.
"We went through hell during the first few days, and it has taken more than three years to recover from what happened. We would never want to see it happen again in our lifetime."
Fifty-four people, including farmers, vicars, district nurses and vets, were independently selected for the research carried out by Lancaster University, and funded by £259,000 from the Department of Health.
During 18 months from December 2001, participants wrote more than 3,200 weekly diaries and also gave in-depth interviews and participated in group discussions. An agricultural worker's diary entry said: "Normally you go out on a farm and have a laugh and a joke, you value the stock for them and you do your job professionally.
"This was different – this was trying to keep the farmers upright, trying to stop them from bursting into tears, or to control it if they did burst into tears. I had times when I had farmers in tears, vets in tears, and slaughtermen in tears, and that's bloody hard to know what to do."
Dr Maggie Mort, who co-ordinated the study, admitted it had been her most harrowing piece of research
Participants were from Cumbria, but Dr Mort stressed the findings would have been mirrored in Yorkshire and nationally. She said: "Four years on, the effects of the worst disaster to hit rural Britain since the Second World War are still being felt.
"The sheer scale of the disaster is greater and wider and involved more people than has previously been understood.
"People remain extremely worried that foot and mouth may reappear, and if it does how it will be dealt with."
The study, The Health and Social Consequences of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic, has urged the Government to introduce more flexibility in disaster planning, rather than simply creating new organisations or more targets and protocols.
It criticised a failure to engage rural communities in dealing with foot and mouth.
According to the research, the Government failed to recognise the rural communities' efforts, causing a growing mistrust.
Richard Ellison, regional director of the National Farmers Union for the North-East, said: "The findings do not surprise me. When you have grown men crying down a phone line, it does get to you.
"I have never seen anything on the scale of the foot -and-mouth crisis. There is still anger because we do not know where foot and mouth actually came from."
October 7 2005
'Human tragedy' of foot-and-mouth
People affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 suffered symptoms close to post-traumatic stress disorder for months afterwards, a report has said.
Flashbacks, nightmares, and conflict in communities were among problems found by Lancaster University researchers.
They studied weekly diaries kept for 18 months from December 2001 by 54 people including farmers, vets and doctors.
Distress was experienced beyond the farming community, the report published in the British Medical Journal said.
The 54-strong "rural citizens' panel", which also included small business owners and others in rural areas, completed diaries, gave interviews and took part in group discussions.
"The study shows that life after the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic has been accompanied by distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, loss of trust in authority and system of control and by the undermining of the value of local knowledge," the report said.
Uncontrollable emotions and increased social isolation were also identified by the Lancaster University Institute for Health Research.
There was evidence in the longer term of anxieties about emissions from disposal sites where animal bodies were burned and buried, as well as confusion, bitterness and increased fear of unemployment.
BBC rural affairs correspondent Tom Heap said foot-and-mouth had been a "watershed event which was not only commercially devastating, but horrifically graphic for those who lived amongst it".
"The result is close to post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.
The report said: "People who have experienced a disaster may not be sick as a result, but they need careful and appropriate support to rebuild lives and regain confidence."
Statutory and voluntary groups had a more complex and lasting role to play than had been previously understood, it said.
The researchers said: "Distress is not a medical problem... unless it becomes pathological, when it is re-categorised as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder - if it is treated it is counted.
"Otherwise those who are suffering are expected to recover using their own resources and networks."
The epidemic forced the closure of much of the countryside for months and the slaughter of between 6.5 million and 10 million animals.