"Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians"An article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, March 2006, by Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS
Rapid Diagnosis RT PCR - " a transforming moment"
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... ..." Read in full
Warmwell.com Archive ~ Bird Flu pages Contact the site How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Scotsman, TimesPlease use F5 button to refresh the page RPA latest bovine TB Harriet - latest --------------------------------
Archive February 2006
February 28th 2006 ~ "A lot has to do with the trust level between the public and government,"
Reuters quotes Alex Thiermann, president of the standard-setting committee for the World Animal Health Organization. In response to the news that 20 countries have imposed curbs on imports of French poultry - ostensibly because of the notion that infected chocken meat is harmful - Mr Thiermann remarked, "Eating chicken is not what is going to kill you."
February 28th 2006 ~ AI - can rapid RT-PCR or other tests be used?
The ProMEd moderator yesterday quoted a comment sent to ProMed by Mary Marshall:
"We also need to learn more about the risk of silent carriers: how long are they able to shed virus, and can rapid RT-PCR or other tests be used? ... With FMD 2001 in the UK, there was no attempt to collect data for future epidemiological work. I hope the same mistakes aren't being made now."The US Defense Department has installed PCR capability for avian influenza in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In spite of its now widespread use in the detection of AI and other pathogens , we hear nothing at all from the UK politicians or establishment scientists about rapid on-site testing using RT-PCR. It will be very interesting to see what reaction greets the demonstration of rapid RT-PCR at the Manchester Conference in March. Speakers at that conference will be genuine experts in various aspects of foot and mouth disease and the parallels with avian influenza will undoubtedly be discussed.
February 28th 2006 ~ Avian Influenza: Ms Beckett said the government was "not ruling out the use of vaccination".
Margaret Beckett has told the NFU conference (Monday) that there will be no "panic vaccination" and that "anybody sensible would have reservations" about the vaccine as a blanket solution to the spread of bird flu.
( We know of no one - sensible or otherwise - who is suggesting that vaccination should be a "blanket solution" on its own, and we deplore the political technique of ascribing to opponents assertions that they have not made. However, free-range poultry keepers should be given the option of protected outdoor management, including vaccination. To deny them this - and to give reasons that are simply not scientifically sound - seems to us to be heartbreakingly foolish.)
As Magnus Linklater pointed out last week, vaccination would safeguard valuable poultry flocks, rather than killing them, slow down the spread of the epidemic, hand control to vets rather than government agencies - and "above all would stand a chance of winning the support and confidence of the countryside rather than ruining its economy, as happened last time, at an estimated cost of some #8 billion."
February 28th ~ The silent carrier argument
Once again we hear "experts" tell listeners and viewers that vaccination is "ineffective as a preventative measure" because it can "hide the presence of disease". The frustration and anger of this correspondent can be seen from the use of capital letters as the flaws in Fred Landeg's assertion that a vaccinated bird might become infected and then act as a 'silent' emitter of virus are examined. Mr Landeg omits to mention that only if a bird that has already been infected is subsequently vaccinated is it possible for it to become one of the apparently very rare persistently infected vaccinates. The same fallacious argument about vaccination and transmission was used over FMD and was effectively demolished here. Mrs Beckett talks about "panic vaccination" In fact, timely pre-emptive vaccination would have made impossible her fears of silent carriers hiding the presence of disease. (In France, 1.2 million one millilitre doses of vaccines have been ordered. Each bird receives two injections, delivered by a special vaccine gun, one month apart. Vets wear protective overalls, masks and gloves and can deliver 6,000 vaccinations a day.)
Monday February 27th 2006 ~ Avian Flu. Chief Scientist David King says there is to be no vaccination
Prof King made this announcement on the BBC on the day (Monday) that Mrs Beckett told the NFU that vaccination had not been ruled out. Germany, following the unpopular decision not to vaccinate, finds itself in a miserable position. Healthy birds across the country are being killed - with minimal publicity or public discussion - if their owners are unable to keep them inside. We hear from this correspondence sent to warmwell that one man, who has kept geese for 50 years and whose oldest one is nearly 20 years old, can find no way to save them and has been refused permission to build an enclosure. The geese are uninfected.
As Christopher Booker wrote in the Mail last week, "... it is on the judgement of these supposed "experts' - and the decisions which follow - that the future of Britain's poultry industry, and possibly the health of many people in this country now rest. It is not a reassuring prospect. "
Monday February 27th 2006 ~ FMD new legislation about vaccination against foot and mouth
The Foot and Mouth Order 2006 (62 pages) and the Statutory Instrument 183 (34 pages) came into force on February 23rd. In brief, the Secretary of State now makes the decision about vaccination. Particularly carefully worded are the regulations setting out the severity of penalties to be brought to bear on anyone attempting to protect their animals from decisions made about them. Since DEFRA has made sure that no content from either of the pdf files may be copied or saved in a different format one should read both in their entirety to get an accurate overview.
Page 8 of the SI covers Regulation 9 - the factors that the Secretary of State will consider in deciding whether or not to "allow" vaccination to be used "under licence" and whether such vaccination is to be "suppressive" or "protective". The derogation allowing that vaccinated products do not need to be treated differently from un-vaccinated in Phase 3 for the home market, once the Protection Zone or Surveillance Zone has been in place for 30 days, does not seem to have been made clear on pages 23/24 - indeed the language used throughout is disappointingly opaque.
February 24 2006 ~ Farmer's Weekly: Vet warned of'vulnerability' six months earlier
Farmer's Weekly 24th February.p.18
"The government's chief veterinary officer warned that the UK was increasingly vulnerable to a foot and mouth disease outbreak six months before the 2001 crisis began.
..... In the memo Mr. Scudamore said that the disease situation in the Middle and Far East was "deteriorating" and Britain was at increasing risk of an F&M outbreak.
He and his colleagues were increasingly concerned that "we are not in a position to identify and deal rapidly with an incursion of a notifiable exotic disease".
He added that key failings in the UK's ability to combat disease had been identified two years earlier in 1998 .... he was worried about the "capability of the government's agents to deal with outbreaks of disease, in particular their ability to investigate the origin and spread." Read in full
February 22 2006 ~ "...a growing consensus that animal farming and man's intrusion into the environment are major factors in the spread of new diseases"
John Vidal's article in the Guardian "....The best security against [diseases like H5N1 bird flu] is conservation, and awareness by governments and the medical community that these diseases are not medical problems to begin with. Nature keeps them in check. Once they are in humans then it is almost too late...As the human population continues to grow, our needs for space and resources result in further encroachment into a diminishing natural world," says Andrew Cunningham in the British Medical Journal. ..."
February 22nd 2006 ~ " as our media now work themselves up into a frenzy about bird flu, who has Defra appointed as one of its chief scientific advisers on the handling of this new animal health crisis?"
Private Eye's Muckspreader ".....This weird catastrophe was masterminded for Maff by a small group of computer modellers, led by Professor Roy Anderson and Professor Neil Ferguson, who were without any experience of animal diseases. Yet, as our media now work themselves up into a frenzy about bird flu, who has Defra appointed as one of its chief scientific advisers on the handling of this new animal health crisis? Professor Neil Ferguson. Five years on, as those Newcastle academics so rightly observe, it is clear that Defra has not learned any lessons whatever."
February 22nd 2006 ~ It is to be hoped that many people will read
Magnus Linklater's article below and remember - those such as MEP Neil Parish notwithstanding, who seem to have a very odd notion of free range production ("the difficulties of catching free-range poultry") - that the small poultry producers are in urgent need of informed information and proper support and to have deprived them of the option of vaccination is indeed a dereliction of duty. The big intensive producers are not speaking for them. The Soil Association is.
As Mary Marshall says on the Coordination Action website
"Defra is responding to lobbying from the commercial sector, but failing to address the concerns of small scale keepers (including the keepers of organic, rare breeds, and pet poultry) who have no coordinated voice. Yet protection of these flocks is a national human and animal health concern."The nonsense about vaccination is heartbreaking - just as it was in 2001- and Magnus Linklater's article points out the fallacies of the "official"UK stance very cogently. Let us remember that this time around, we need human protection too. If H5N1 gets into poultry children will be at risk - as will vets and others.
IN warmwell's absence, there are automatic updates on this special and temporary H5N1 page
February 22nd 2006 ~ "If Defra has time to rush around killing things, then it has time to rush around vaccinating them instead"
Magnus Linklater, as usual, points accurately to the nub of the argument in his article "A solution any birdbrain should see".
"...The Government's response to the threat of bird flu in Britain is heart-sinkingly predictable. .... ... Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary.. quoted, almost word for word, the mantra we heard repeated so often five years ago as the pits filled with burning carcases and the countryside was emptied of people and prospects: "Everyone recognises that vaccination has problems," she said. "(It) does not necessarily stop the disease in its tracks."Read in full
Of course it does not. Very few inoculation programmes do. But in the case of bird flu, most experts agree that the generic vaccines currently available would offer about 80 per cent protection, which would be of critical importance in containing the epidemic.
It would safeguard valuable poultry flocks, rather than killing them;
it would slow down the spread of the epidemic;
it would hand control to vets rather than government agencies;
above all, it would stand a chance of winning the support and confidence of the countryside rather than ruining its economy, as happened last time, at an estimated cost of some #8 billion. .....
..... Science this time is firmly on the side of vaccination. Unlike FMD, the H5N1 virus is a potentially lethal pathogen, not just for birds but for human beings...."
February 21/22 2006 ~ CA Forum Post : H5N1 - Can we apply some of the lessons learned from FMD 2001
to other disease control contingency plans? Message from Mary Marshall to Defra and others with regard to the UK response to H5N1.
"....Failure to control FMD in 2001, especially by the delay of three days in imposing a movement standstill and the risks associated with mass slaughter and carcass disposal, should not be mirrored in our response to H5N1. In particular, while it will be relatively easy for the commercial sector to put their flocks indoors at short notice under conditions of strict biosecurity, there is no such capability to protect outdoor flocks, and measures need to be taken now.This is an important post that should be read in full. Responses would be most valuable. http://www.fmd-and-csf-action.org/forums/fmdv
Decision making. Control decisions in 2001 were taken by government-appointed advisers, led mainly by modelers with no veterinary expertise. There was an absence of veterinary and local input into decision making. We require assurance that this will not be repeated in the response to H5N1 in 2006 and beyond...."
February 21/22 2006 ~ A joint study by US and UK scientists has concluded that real-time RT-PCR assays are the new "gold standard" for foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) detection and control.
See paper and review. Extract:
".... the Pirbright PCR test does not now and would not in 2001 have identified all the FMD viruses found in the UK 2001 epidemic. The Tetracore test, on the other hand, did identify all of these viruses. It should be noted that the UK Chief Scientist, Dr. David King, was fully informed of this technology and it was demonstrated to him by an expert US group in 2001 ..."Comments are invited on the Coordination Action website. Contributions are needed from ordinary stakeholders who so rarely have a chance to make their voices heard. Read in full.
February 21st 2006 ~ Decision on bird flu vaccination programmes delayed
See H5N1 pages
February 21st 2006 ~ Intervet has not received any orders from Defra for bird flu vaccine
".... for ten million doses to vaccinate Britain's free-range poultry would take up to two months to deliver." Scotsman
( This is frankly sickening. Vaccination does work - as Dutch virologist Albert Osterhaus made clear last night on Newsnight. He is a leading world avian influenza scientist and considers that vaccination should be accompanied with a monitoring programme because of a two-week period needed for a vaccine to start working.
"I would definitely recommend vaccination to be considered seriously. If you have a large (poultry) population like in the Netherlands and you leave them unprotected, you're running a high risk in the future," he told Reuters in January.The reasons the UK puts forward for not vaccinating seem eerily similar to those groundlessly propounded in 2001 - so-called "consumer confidence" and the supposed difficulty of distinguishing between vaccinated and infected birds - an uncertainty that would be only a concern for trade and only if Third countries used that as a reason for banning European poultry. As ever in the UK, politicians seem to see killing as preferable to using the tools of modern science. Yet Vietnam has already eradicated H5N1 by a sensible combination of vaccination, restricted culling and proper information and trust. In the UK, the DEFRA plan now includes the culling of pigs. According to the Guardian, the paper, which focuses on the possible costs of the regulations, says: "Movement restrictions and possible slaughter of the pigs could impose additional costs on a farm in the event that it suffered an outbreak (or suspected outbreak) of avian influenza." It added there are more than 4,000 farms in the UK with both pigs and chickens. )
February 21st 2006 ~ The Soil Association is urging vaccination of all UK free range flocks
"...we are contacting people in various organisations to lend their support. It really must be sensible to protect outdoor flocks from this huge reservoir of the lethal avian flu disease around the Baltic."
The Times reports:
"...Their intervention replicates their attempt, with the support of the Prince of Wales, to persuade Tony Blair to adopt a vaccination policy during the foot-and-mouth outbreak five years ago, and it threatens to renew the strains between the organic sector and the National Farmers' Union. News of the plan was leaked to The Times last night as it emerged that the Government has not ordered one vaccine to deal with an outbreak of the H5N1 virus.
While the French and Dutch today submit applications for the limited vaccination of outdoor birds to protect them from possible disease from birds returning from Africa this summer, Britain is still firmly resisting such an approach. .."
February 20th 2006 ~ Act now to protect poultry, UK urged
Guardian ".All Britain's 180m poultry fowl should be brought indoors or vaccinated against bird flu.... Albert Osterhaus, the head of virology at the University of Rotterdam and an adviser to the Dutch government, said that since the vaccine took nearly a month to take effect, immediate action should be taken to minimise contact between poultry and the wild birds thought to carry the H5N1 virus. "It is important to realise that migrating birds could bring in the virus, and where possible action should be taken to avoid contact [with farmed birds]. In the Netherlands, we have brought them all indoors," Dr Osterhaus told the BBC's Today programme. "If it is not possible to bring them indoors, you should consider vaccinating ..." More
February 20th 2006 ~ Avian Influenza today ".. a combination of vaccination, culling and public communication had proved the disease could be halted,
even in a less developed country such as Vietnam. Today's Independent says, "As avian flu advances across Europe towards the UK, public health experts in the Far East claimed the first significant victory against the H5N1 virus since the current outbreak began two years ago. Vietnam, the worst affected country in the world with 93 human cases and 42 deaths, has become the first to successfully contain the disease ..."
February 20th 2006 ~ FMD five years on...Amnesia Creep.
"....Hard work and long hours is no substitute for proactive research on world leading control programs and education of DEFRA staff on the technologies to prepare them for the worst eventuality. There is no point to any of these inquiries if the lessons are learned and forgotten again. It is the duty of all those involved in foot and mouth to remind the next government and those thereafter that we will not tolerate short-term cost cutting policies that cost the country dearly in the long run. Prevention is better than cure and that must be the focus for the future. " A quotation from the submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry by Ronan M.T. Fleming B.V.M.S. M.R.C.V.S. and George D. Curran M.R.C.V.S. (Read in full) ( new window)
20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... "really quite an achievement and I think a magnificent record..." said David King of the FMD tragedy
The transcript of Professor David King's interview on the Today Programme 18th December 2002 shows that he did not grasp what was available at the time of the outbreak.
"What we had at our disposal at that time left us with the cull policy to control the epidemic."Yet Uruguay successfully used both vaccination and the rapid on-site RT-PCR machine, developed by ARS in the US and offered to the UK Government and David King in particular at the start of our own crisis.
20th February 2006 ~ Five years on... RT-PCR available then, available now
See warmwell pages on the on-site rapid diagnosis kit, rejected by the UK government in 2001. Also Roger Breeze's letter to warmwell.
There is still no mention of RT-PCR in the new Generic Contingency Plan. A review this year ( J Vet Diagn Invest 18:93 - 97 (2006) Detection of foot-and-mouth disease virus: comparative diagnostic sensitivity of two independent real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assays by Donald P. King,1 Nigel P. Ferris, Andrew E. Shaw, Scott M. Reid, Geoff H. Hutchings, Angelica C. Giuffre, John M. Robida, Johnny D. Callahan, William M. Nelson, Tammy R. Beckham concludes
"... even when used independently, these rRT-PCR assays offer superior sensitivity over established diagnostic tests. This report provides further confidence in the use of this method for routine diagnosis of FMD and re-emphasizes the effectiveness of rRT-PCR as a diagnostic tool for routine FMD detection and control."Read in full ( pdf new window)
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on..."Following Orders" reminds us of what it was really like
"Following Orders" by James Drew is a novel based on the real events and experiences of a vet during the FMD epidemic and it is published today. Only partly fiction, it reveals in heartbreaking detail how politicians, intimidated farmers and those merely "following orders" can so easily be drawn into creating a catastrophe. More details can be seen at Amazon.co.uk
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....Ben Gill and vaccination
Writing in the Farmers Guardian in 2002, Alastair Driver wrote:
"...... the Government's submission to the Anderson inquiry said: "Farmers unions were strongly opposed throughout." These words were echoed by Nick Brown in his evidence to the EU inquiry.Read in full
Responding to Mr Brown, Helen O'Hare, a temporary vet erinary inspector during the crisis, said the NFU did not represent the majority of farmers and were not experts at disease control. Writing on the Warmwell website, she also attacked the excuse that a two tier domestic market would have developed, claiming the consumer already buys vaccinated meat and EU money was available to offset losses. Countering other reasons put forward by the Government for not vaccinating, she said "There were enough vaccines available and blanket vaccination would have eliminated the disease within one month. There is no scientific reason for a 12 month ban on exports following vaccination and the EU could end all financial penalties of using vaccination at a stroke."
February 20th 2006 ~ Five years on....
Nick Brown 'remembers' the contiguous cull policy..... Western Morning News " CHIEF VET AND I BOTH OPPOSED FMD CULL ...
Mr Brown ("Nigel Brawn" in the novel Following Orders) said there had been "tensions" between Dr Scudamore and the Government's Chief Scientist Dr David King, who was advising Mr Blair directly and who was seen as being the architect of the contiguous cull. "That was the recommendation of the chief scientist who put it directly to the Prime Minister." The WMN comments that Mr Brown's words now "appear to point the finger for the policy squarely at Downing Street and the Prime Minister."
19th/20th February 2006 ~ "....farm biosecurity and appropriate flock disease prevention/vaccination needs to be implemented. The former is a national/international responsibility; the latter is local."
The latest commentary by moderator MHJ on ProMed on avian influenza is well worth reading in full.
(One does rather wonder how far real experts (such as MHJ) are now advising the UK government on what must be done to prepare for the almost inevitable. The mistakes that were made exactly five years ago - alienation, bureaucratic bullying and lack of proper information which led to a longlasting mistrust by those responsible for the livestock- must not happen again. Local responsibility was not respected by the centralised policy. This time, human health - particularly the health of children who handle free range hens - is involved. Partnership and mutual respect has never been so urgently needed.)
19th/20th February 2006 ~ " .. the great gaping chasm seems to me they're not prepared to act to stop one coming in the first place. .."
"British officials are not doing enough to stop bird flu from coming into the country, some experts have claimed. Virologist John Oxford said the UK was equipped to deal with an outbreak, but officials were "not prepared to act to stop one coming in the first place". Prof Oxford, from the Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London, told the BBC the government should act to prevent contact between wild and domestic birds. He said: "Some countries in Europe are better organised, I think, and those countries are particularly Holland and France. Now the situation here is a bit more tricky really. They're very well organised, I think, the Ministry of Agriculture here possibly for dealing with an outbreak, but the great gaping chasm seems to me they're not prepared to act to stop one coming in the first place." ..." BBC
19th/20th February 2006 ~ "misconceptions about avian influenza that need to be challenged ....For poultry reared outdoors the only option available (other than moving poultry indoors) is vaccination..."
An interesting response to Viewpoint: Leon Bennun below is published on ProMed Extract
"... The arguments about whether trade or wild birds are the main source of infection are now essentially irrelevant from a disease control standpoint. Both must be recognised as genuine threats. Any control program that does not take into account the potential for both of these to spread highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses will likely fail. The only ways to reduce these risks are to strengthen border controls and farm biosecurity to prevent potentially infected or contaminated material from getting onto farms and to create barriers between poultry and wild birds. For poultry reared outdoors the only option available (other than moving poultry indoors) is vaccination..." Read in full
18th February 2006 ~ No lessons have been learnt from the affair. If there were an outbreak tomorrow, the insane killing that led to the unnecessary death of 6.5 million animals would happen again.
Magnus Linklater in the Times
"In any other industry, the Newcastle University report on Britain's rural economy would have prompted a national scandal. It is an account of ministerial failure after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak. Incompetence, ignorance and apathy have characterised the behaviour of the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) in its handling of the rural economy.Read in full
No lessons have been learnt from the affair. If there were an outbreak tomorrow, the insane killing that led to the unnecessary death of 6.5 million animals would happen again.
For a department whose prime responsibility is the countryside, to have lost touch with the rural economy should be a cause for outrage. Yet no minister is being held to account. A series of mishandled crises, from BSE to foot-and-mouth, has eroded the trust between the Government and those in the countryside. Because Defra is staffed mainly by bureaucrats, the gap between policy-makers and practitioners has widened.
With the changeover from production-led farming to the "single payment" policy, whose aim is to manage the environment, the plethora of paperwork that farmers face has increased, while the skills that once made British farming the envy of the world are no longer held in high regard.
Sooner or later, as the cost of imported food increases, future governments will need, once again, to enlist the support of British farming. By then it may be too late to regain the trust of an industry that has been made to feel that it is an encumbrance rather than an asset."
18th February 2006 ~ "They should ask the fellows who cut the hay"
Telegraph Opinion "The Newcastle University report into the rural economy, published yesterday, will make unsurprising reading.....its main point - that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is failing to protect the countryside or its economy - is devastating.
."..... Labour demonstrated in its response to foot-and-mouth that it simply does not understand the countryside. ..... This must be the first government in our history not to have a concept of rural England that would be remotely intellectually sustainable. Food, in its view, comes from shops. The countryside is a place for occasional excursions. Its people live in a pampered, idyllic luxury that contrasts starkly with the harsh, front-line existences of urban folk in Labour's heartlands. For it can only be by believing such things that Labour can have such an obtuse rural policy. Defra is a failure and should be scrapped. There is a spare seat in the Cabinet, unfilled pending a reshuffle. It should go to a new Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, whose brief will be to protect our countryside and its stewards, our farmers - and not least against the ignorance of his colleagues."
18th February 2006 ~ Rural policy "is more of a mess than before foot and mouth"
'Foot and Mouth: Five Years On by Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy. The Telegraph reports
" The government department responsible for tackling a possible outbreak of bird flu in Britain is slammed today for its handling of the foot and mouth crisis that devastated the rural economy five years ago. A scathing academic report recommends that Tony Blair should consider stripping the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, headed by Margaret Beckett, of its responsibility for the rural economy..." Read in fullExtract from report
"After foot-and-mouth, the Government had planned to improve its handling of rural affairs through a new Department of Rural Affairs. But setting up Defra in 2001 resulted in a sprawling ministry also handling environmental protection and climate change. The result has been the reverse of what was planned, and a marginalisation of rural affairs in Whitehall.'
18th February 2006 ~ ".... a long, hard look at the way the world feeds itself, and to decide whether the price paid for modern farming in terms of risks to human health and the Earth's biodiversity is too high."
BBC Reality takes wing over bird flu "Vested interests mean wild birds are being blamed for the spread of avian flu, argues Dr Leon Bennun in this week's Green Room, whereas responsibility really lies with modern farming. Demands for culling and the destruction of nesting sites threaten, he says, to bring rare species to extinction, but will do nothing to halt the disease. ....
".....Some of the world's most threatened birds may be put at risk. But there is also the near-certainty of damage to ecosystem services on which people and economies depend. Alarmingly for those who fear a human bird flu epidemic, such a distorted picture also means that the right questions are not being asked, and the most effective protection measures may not be undertaken. BirdLife is calling for an independent inquiry into the spread of H5N1 which gives due weight to the role of the global poultry industry, and maps both official and unofficial poultry trade routes against the pattern of outbreaks. It may also be time to take a long, hard look at the way the world feeds itself, and to decide whether the price paid for modern farming in terms of risks to human health and the Earth's biodiversity is too high. "Read in full
17th February 2006 ~ US Defense Department in Central Asia provides real time PCR diagnosis of FMD, Avian influenza and other diseases....solutions that will have lasting global benefits
Dr Roger Breeze will be the keynote speaker at the forthcoming Manchester Conference. An outline of his talks may be seen here.
This conference - for members of the public - looks set to mark a turning point in the perception of what is now possible in the field of disease control. To book a place for the conference and research seminars please contact: LITTORAL Tel & FAX: 00 44 (0)1706 827 961 E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.littoral.org.uk
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... disease elimination will spur international trade, reduce poverty and promote economic development over more than half the globe."Read in full
....This is the moment to persuade North America, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand that their national security and economic interests coincide with those of less-developed nations.
We can protect and improve the health of livestock and the economic security of people all over the world by applying the ingenuity and focus of the private sector to seemingly intractable international animal disease problems of the highest importance for which solutions would have lasting global benefits. ..."
9th February 2006 ~ " Publicise through all possible means.....the use of the PCR technique to differentiate between infectious badgers and the rest"
The National Beef Association (NBA) (pdf) recommendations for TB control included this vital paragraph (p18) "Publicise through all possible means:
a) The reasons why some badgers need to be culled. Include photographs of emaciated badgers in the final stages of death from TB and of their internal organs post mortemWarmwell therefore offers this very unpleasant photo of a postmortem badger which leaves no scope for any comfortable idea that infected badgers do not suffer. (For more detail and to view other disturbiing photos, see latest bovine TB page) We do not advocate a widescale cull of healthy badgers. Of course not. We want to see a healthy badger population and a healthy cattle herd. The refusal - for what reasons we can only speculate - of the UK to make use of the portable PCR equipment that has been available and effective since the beginning of the foot and mouth disaster five years ago, continues to astound us. A targeted cull of infected badgers should be perfectly possible. ( We note that the OIE's comments on the technique are outdated. They cite a 1996 paper for reference.)
b) The use of the PCR technique to differentiate between infectious badgers and the rest...."
8th February 2006 ~ farmers "at the end of their tether"
Jason Groves in the WMN " NFU's vice-president Meurig Raymond said many farmers were "at the end of their tether ... whether it is physical, emotional or financial" over the lack of Government action to tackle a disease which increased by 40 per cent in the Westcountry last year.....We hear a lot about the welfare of badgers and the welfare of cattle, but there is also a big issue of the welfare of the farmers involved - some of them have been under restriction for three or four years..." See bovine TB pages
8th February 2006 ~ Answer received about Johnes disease and TB reactors
Warmwell is grateful for this comment in response to the question posed below
"A friend recently had 10 IR's (Inconclusive Reactors) to Tb test and we both asked the same question, "Could mycobacterium paratuberculosis have skewed the test?" as they had had a bull positive for Johnes in recent weeks. (This was a restocked herd after FMD, hence the bought in cattle)( For details of the project aiming to investigate the biology of M. bovis in soil and host (badgers, cattle) excreta, and to evaluate the attributable risk of bTB breakdown from different environmental sources on UK farms, see this Warwick University webpage).
The answer, both from their SVS area and ours, was that an exposure to Johnes as recent as theirs was, was known to throw up inconclusive reactors - but rarely Reactors. (If reactors then possibly clinical Johnes in the making? - we don't know.) All the IR cattle subsequently went clear on retest. The bull positive for Johnes was slaughtered.
In a Defra funded study, Prof. Liz Wellington at Warwick has refined PCR to pick up Johnes in cattle dung. I wonder if they'll ever use it? In 40 years of cattle farming, I have never seen a clinical case of Johnes. I understand it's pretty unforgettable. (Cattle back ends just melt away, emaciate with constant scouring. Transmission is mainly to a calf at birth through direct contact I understand.There is no treatment and no cure)"
See also part of the response from the first farmer to the reply.
7th/8th February 2006 ~ "Could naturally occurring Mycobacterium paratuberculosis affect the reliability of the TB test?"
A farmer writes,
" I was thinking about TB and what came to my mind last night was : a couple of years ago there were trials with a vaccine against Johne's disease in cattle. The owners of vaccinated cattle had to sign an agreement that the cattle couldn't be exported because no intracutanous TB test could be carried out on vaccinated cattle. This test would show up positive.Does any veterinary expert have an answer to this interesting question?"
My question is : would a natural occurring infection with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis affect the reliability of the test as well ? I know from the ongoing survey that there are all kinds of Mycobacterium around, and in the case of testing cattle for Johne's disease (blood test) a lot of false positive due to cross-reaction occur..."
7th/8th February 2006 ~ Why are we importing so much of something we can grow ourselves?
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer initiated and opened the debate on the Rural Economy last Thursday "When I tabled the debate, I did so in a spirit of optimism because of the new opportunities offered by CAP reform. However, since then it has emerged that funding for the rural development pillar of the CAP may have been slashed
.......the trade gap .... I am talking of beef and dairy products, vegetables and wheat - is now #11 billion. Why are we importing so much of something we can grow ourselves? What has happened to the effort to reduce food miles and Defra's "buy local" policy? Food from Britain received #8 million in grants from Defra last year. Where is that money is going? ..." Read in full
6/7th February 2006 ~ "The LVI who did the test has over-written the readings recorded on farm"
Sheilagh Kremers writes "....DEFRA are spending thousands of pounds telling me I must toe the line, when all I am asking for is a second test - which I have said I will pay for. I have no faith in the test itself, but since this is test is at the moment law, what else can I do?" Read in full
Defra now will be going to court to obtain a slaughter form A.
It is heartbreaking for those who actually mind that someone's hard work and careful breeding is to be destroyed without even a second confirmatory test. (See also letter from the SVS vet)
Dr Roger Breeze, in the letter given to the Royal Society Inquiry, the Lessons Learned Inquiry and given by hand to Lord Whitty
"I do not believe U.S. farmers would accept that their life's work - bloodlines developed over generations in many cases - should be wiped out without clear evidence of infection. Nor do thy have to...."Here, in the UK, they do have to, it seems. As for those who "test" for TB reactors, CVO Debby Reynolds herself admitted in a letter to the EU that "..TB tests are not regularly supervised" adding that " if/when problems are encountered ad-hoc supervisory visits are made." She did not add however that farmers have no rights at all when they feel that problems have indeed been encountered.
Monday 6th February 2006 ~ "Once you become an adviser, I don't say you are corrupt, but you have loyalties not just to your beliefs but to the group."
(In yesterday's Sunday Times interview James Lovelock says, "I will remain independent. Once you become an adviser, I don't say you are corrupt, but you have loyalties not just to your beliefs but to the group..." )
Of the DEFRA Expert Group on FMD it is asserted that:
"....As new technologies are developed an important role of the EG will be to review existing plans to monitor developments and recommend the exploitation of and new technologies in its area of competence .to consider....any new developments in science and technology which might impact on prevention, detection of disease and control strategies."If all the minutes of the EG meetings are being published on the DEFRA website, the last meeting appears to have been on August 25th last year. In those minute notes we are - in the light of Dr Breeze' s letter below - astonished to read
".....The use of PCR in the field was less well developed. This would depend on collaboration with the people who provide the technology for preparing and analysing samples in the field and various options were being explored."In Dr Roger Breeze's communication , he reveals that although the blocking of RT-PCR in America delayed its use there for several years, the technology worked effectively against FMD in the field in Uruguay in 2001 and is now used globally. Is the UK's desire for "collaboration ", presumably in order to market its own tests, all that has been holding back on-site RT-PCR in the UK since it was first offered in 2001?
What Dr Fink writes about the UK Public Sector leads one to wonder how far there has been real debate, balance, independence, healthy challenge and criticism - and accountability - in the deliberations of the "Expert Group". (See also background and in particular the sentence " Periodically, there are major shifts in technology and history shows that many people have problems adjusting to these - the Luddites are the classical example." It will be remembered however that the Luddites were not responsible for an unnecessary overkill of literally millions of healthy farm animals (and pets), widespread misery and the wasting of billions in taxpayers' money. )
Sunday 5th February 2006 ~ "its lungs and vital organs were a mass of abscesses and lesions and it must have died in agony"
It is regrettable that time the country cannot afford to lose is being wasted by anger, ignorance of what is now available (but "unvalidated") and downright misinformation. These distressing photos (more) were from a vet. They are upsetting and we publish them very reluctantly - but we should be upset by the idea of the wildlife reservoir of TB continuing unchecked when it is possible to target the infected setts instead of carrying out a random cull. The RSPCA, once respected for its original and laudable aim of protecting animals from pain and neglect, has taken up a polarised position on TB and is urging its supporters to do the same by means of its urgent Back Off Badgers campaign. Instead of putting the full weight of its now considerable political clout towards persuading the government to get behind the technology already existing to effectively diagnose and eradicate bTB in both cattle and wildlife, the RSPCA is urging the public to object en masse to any idea of a cull. Their fact sheet (Know Your Facts! pdf) includes statements such as "In the few badgers that do have symptoms they are wheeziness and loss of weight and condition. There may be some skin ulceration." The email received yesterday: " A vet friend in Staffordshire did a postmortem on a dead badger found in client's bull pen - its lungs and vital organs were a mass of abscesses and lesions and it must have died in agony - what sort of animal welfare is it that takes - (sometimes) healthy cattle and leaves sick badgers?" See also email received today ("There are clearly a number of things that readers of your site can do"). This message about the real state of cattle movements points out that statistics are being misused. Warmwell's page on the RSPCA reports criticism from valid and responsible sources.
Sunday 5th February 2006 ~ "With the urgent need to develop more sensitive, rapid, and cost-effective means of diagnosing M. bovis infection in cattle and badgers, the EN approach described here offers considerable potential
The method is not only easy to perform, and therefore does not require a specifically trained technician, but is also cost- and time-effective, since, once validated, it would dispense with the need for the isolation of M. bovis by culture (which is protracted and costly) or repeated visits to the farm (in the case of the cattle skin test). Furthermore, the technology is amenable to automation and/or condensation into a portable device that could eventually permit the rapid testing of large numbers of animals in situ." From Use of an Electronic Nose To Diagnose Mycobacterium bovis Infection in Badgers and Cattle Journal of Clinical Microbiology, April 2005, p. 1745-1751, Vol. 43, No. 4 This was work funded partly by DEFRA. Any information about what happened to it would be gratefully received.
Saturday 4th February ~"Fear - real or imagined - allows them to use any method to resist outside influence for improvement."
We are grateful to Dr Colin Fink B.Sc.,MB.,Ph.D.,FRCPath, Virological Scientist and Physician for Micropathology Ltd, for his response to Dr Roger Breeze's letter to warmwell (new window)
Since 2001, Dr Fink has found that, in spite of attitudes rife in the public sector, rapid diagnostic service coupled with economy and good administration is possible. Dr Fink's letter to warmwell begins:
"I have read your letter from Dr Breeze at Plum Island concerning the resistance to the use of the rapid thermocycler for diagnosis in the field, with a mixture of sadness and amusement.(The background to that extraordinary refusal may be read here). Dr Fink's letter recalls the less talked about tragedy of the government failure over FMD; the important lost opportunity, by means of using the very sensitive molecular diagnostic systems, to gain information of the true level and spread of infection. This chance was lost for ever. He says,
As you may well remember we had facilities and the primers for rapid diagnosis of FMD in 2001 but DEFRA and the Vet agency refused to supply us with non-infectious material to calibrate our assay....."
"I have often wondered whether this opportunity was thrown away because of continuing incompetence or that the true level of infection in the culled animals would have been an embarrassment to know?"His letter concludes:
"..I am beginning to believe that many of my colleagues in the public service have no incentive nor any stomach for improvement or change and their fear, real or imagined, allows them to use any method to resist outside influence for improvement. No one doubts that things could be so much better. In that and more Dr Breeze and I may be sharing a view."Read in full
Saturday 4th February ~ The FDA took just two weeks to approve the test.
"A laboratory test that can give a preliminary diagnosis of bird flu in humans received expedited approval Friday from the government. The new test can provide results on suspected H5 influenza samples within four hours. That process used to take two to three days.....The agency plans to share the technology with health officials around the world, including the World Health Organization.....The FDA took just two weeks to approve the test. Von Eschenbach said the speed did not compromise the "quality or integrity of the FDA review process." Press reportsWhen the situation is deemed urgent by authorities it is remarkable how swiftly "validation" can take place. The test, described in the reports as a "laboratory test" is a Real-time RT-PCR test using the same technology as the Razor portable machine and the Enigma rapid diagnostic PCR machine demonstrated in Bristol on Tuesday (see below )
Friday 3rd February ~ "A full page advertisement in the Daily Mail does not come cheap"
An email received today puts into words the frustration felt by so many with regard to the present bovine TB misery and the RSPCA's response. Our correspondent writes:
"... ....A vet friend in Staffordshire did a postmortem on a dead badger found in client's bull pen - its lungs and vital organs were a mass of abscesses and lesions and it must have died in agony - what sort of animal welfare is it that takes - (sometimes) healthy cattle and leaves sick badgers..... A full page advertisement in the Daily Mail does not come cheap....."(Warmwell's polite email to the RSPCA has so far met with no response nor acknowledgement. However, others have received the reply:
"...Our understanding is that PCR is not currently suitable for this purpose. We were speaking to scientists about this only last week who were explaining some of the difficulties with it. ..."The scientists who are speaking to the RSPCA sound like the scientists who convinced the RSPCA in 2001 that vaccination against FMD didn't work - at the very time that the farmers of Uruguay were eradicating the disease by vaccinating their own cattle "Difficulties" were raised against both PCR and differential tests by APHIS in the US until it became apparent that such "difficulties" were merely political.)
Thursday 2nd February ~ Mrs Kremers has vowed to go to jail rather than allow her calf to be killed
BBC "...she is expected to refuse to allow vets to take the animal away on Thursday. Fern, a Dexter bull calf, owned by Sheilagh Kremers was found to be a bovine TB reactor during a routine annual test in December. Government vets are due at the East Ogwell farm near Newton Abbot on Thursday to remove the calf. But Mrs Kremers has vowed to go to jail rather than allow him to be killed. .."
Thursday 2nd February ~ RSPCA says, "Unfortunately, there is no reliable test for TB in live badgers"
But - there is, and if instead of urging people up and down the country "to tell the government to "back off badgers" the RSPCA were to put their considerable weight behind the use of rapid on site PCR we could perhaps avoid the emotional, strident and unnecessary clash between two polarised positions - both of whom have animal welfare at heart but each of whom is bitterly opposed to the other's point of view.
Why is the knowledge not readily understood - even by the RSPCA it seems - that there is indeed a way of diagnosing whether setts have bovine TB? The UK version of the Razor rapid diagnostic PCR machine was demonstrated on Tuesday (see below) What is more, if this website has been aware of such technological capabilities since the earliest days of FMD 2001, why is this technology ignored by the "expert" policy makers guiding TB eradication? (See also Dr Roger Breeze's letterletter about how the technology was temporarily blocked in the US)
Wednesday 1 February ~ "DEFRA also hopes the category system will stem the spread of bovine TB by speeding the removal of infected animals from farms...." FWi
"It wasn't the valuers holding up slaughter - it was sheer numbers of reactors! SVS can't cope as it is. .......farmers are unable to obtain insurance for Tb now, - "the exposure to risk is too high" said the loss adjusters - compulsory purchase money is all there is, for the reactor animal, her unborn calf, her production. Everything. Defra (I hear) suggested a 50 : 50 underwrite with the insurers to cover compulsory purchase of Tb reactors, and were laughed out of the room. "We are businessmen " the loss adjusters said.....Tb pay outs were haemorrhaging the whole farm insurance budget, hence no new insurance, and premium for existing policies increased 10 fold, while the pay out halved.
... testing is now a higher part of the Tb budget than farmer compulsory purchase monies..." Read in full
Wednesday 1 February ~ What price PCR?
The price, according to Enigma, is from #10,000 - #30,000 depending on how many units are sold. A structure to test the efficiency of humane gas culling, built in Weybridge has never been used. Fifty portable PCR machines could have been bought for what it cost. The Telegraph reminded us in November that TB in cattle will cost #2 billion over the next decade unless the Government takes determined action. (Q: Can anyone tell us which "billion" is meant when the press refers to a billion pounds?)
We understand that, at a demonstration of the UK produced, portable, "Enigma" rapid diagnostic machine given yesterday at a National Beef Association meeting in Bristol, the audience was told how easy it was to operate. ("Even a vet could do it." Laughter.)
We understand also that the VLA have ordered some for use in April - but for Bovine Virus Diarrhoea - and there is no word yet that it is envisaged that the machines be used to detect bovineTb - yet their use would conform to the Bern convention in that it identifies where disease actually is present and allows the response to be accurately targeted. Where diagnosis confirms the bacterium in badger setts, the humane culling of the infected creatures would be seen to be justifiable, since they are doomed to a nasty and lonely death anyway. A blanket cull of badgers that may or may not be healthy, by means other than the most humane, may well be regarded as a miserable solution and against the spirit and terms of the Bern Convention. (Bovine TB Latest)
Wednesday 1 February ~ "on-site analysis in about 30 minutes "
The latest Idaho machine, the hand-portable "RAZOR", is able to perform on-site analysis of viruses and bacteria in about 30 minutes. It allows testers, who may be non-laboratory personnel, to get safe and valid results quickly.
Copybook Solutions Ltd (City of London) exists to "provide Governments with news, information and issues affecting security, the armed forces, new legislation and developments across the world in all sectors of industry" Unfortunately for UK Contingency Planning, key policy makers in Government appear to be unaware that RT PCR has already transformed diagnostics, bringing to an end the need to transport samples on lengthy journeys to specified labs (World Reference Centres) before a definitive result can be obtained. The speed and accuracy of the technology enables rapid response. Mass slaughter and its attendant miseries has become as unnecessary as it is unethical.
Copybook Solutions article:
" The RAZOR(tm) Instrument, weighing only 9.1 lbs (4.1 kg), can be carried by hand and used on-site to test samples. Testing the sample where it is collected has practical advantages; such as sample-handling timesavings, reduction in chain-of-custody risk and most importantly, increasing speed-to-results.... No longer is laboratory equipment being adapted to the field, but field equipment is being developed using technologies once thought only applicable in the lab setting, state-of-the-art technology is now field applicable...."More about the PCR portable test and how it works Once the technology is understood, Dr Breeze's letter becomes even more startling.
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