7th July 2003

Martin Alder - The Editor
The Veterinary Record
7 Mansfield Street

Dear Sir

This year has seen outbreaks of FMD in various countries distant to the E.C.  However, the recent outbreak in Libya raises some concerns which may not have been widely noted.  The index case in the Libyan outbreak was not reported to OIE for about 6 weeks.  The strain identified was not one commonly seen north of the Sahara which may have implications in the epidemiology and clinical picture of the disease.  This is close to the EC border.

There are a number of issues that have still not been sufficiently well addressed by the DEFRA  in response to eliciting a plan for dealing with exotic disease.

1)      Identification
There seems to be reluctance to use electronic identification systems (which could be linked with geographical information systems and thus locate all domestic animals within the EU).  The continued welfare unfriendly use of double tagging together with the added trauma of losses to individual farmers (currently £4.25 to replace one tag and many torn ears flapping in the wind) could be easily avoided.

2)      Rapid diagnostic devices.
The DEFRA still have not attempted to validate rapid technologies available to identify the presence or absence of FMDV in herds or flocks.  This is despite continual re-evaluation of these technologies in the field.  It could be used now to help in early identification and control.  We currently have outbreaks in Libya, Malawi and Zimbabwe where this technology could be used.  This technology is already enabled to work with GIS.

3)      A coherent and transparent plan for dealing with the next outbreak of FMD to occur in this country is still awaited.

As the comment in the Vet Record of 5
th July argued, the Animal Health & Welfare strategy on which so many hopes are pinned should not be allowed to fizzle out.

Yours faithfully

P A Roger BSc., MSc., BVetMed., DSHP., CertWEL., MRCVS