> Re mis-diagnosis - the MAFF vet in Llandrindod told
>us that he regretted that there had been a large
>number of cases mis-diagnosed in Powys.

Is 'sorry' good enough? Have the veterinary profession even owned up to the fact that many misdiagnoses have been made? Why has the fact that many misdiagnoses have been made not changed their behaviour or MAFF policy? In 67/68 there were many more vets actively engaged in farm animal work - most would have been familiar with Orf for example. The slaughter policy does depend for its integrity on the ability of vets to be able to diagnose FMD accurately and/or the use of lab tests to back up clinical diagnosis - in many instances neither condition has been true/met in the current epidemic and that's a scandal in my opinion - but then I'm labelled' as an 'not living in the real world' and as an 'idealist' when I raise such issues with vets.

>The reason was
>that although they did their best to give a crash
>training course to young and foreign vets, many of
>them had never looked into a sheep's mouth before and
>therefore mistakes had been made.

In many instances I have first hand information that there was NO training at all. In MAFF knew that many of the TVIs could not be expected to be able to diagnose FMD accurately then why was lab testing not used to back up clinical diagnoses - Drs Donaldson and Kitching (IAH Pirbright) have stated that in their opinion it is not possible to make a definitive diagnosis of FMD in sheep affected by this strain of FMDV on clinical signs alone.

MAFF has published a job description which lists essential requirements for applicants for TVI work yet very very few TVIs would match these requirements:


Misdiagnosis - whilst unacceptable IMO - would not have been quite so much of a problem had the 48 hour contiguous cull policy not been in effect. Each IP typically 'generated' 4-6 contiguous farms in many areas. hence One misdiagnosis could affect 5-7 farms. This is quite unacceptable I feel.

> He also mentioned
>that most vets do not actually come into contact with
>orf (there has been a big outbreak of orf here this
>year) because farmers deal with it themselves rather
>than calling in a vet,

True - there has been a great decline in veterinary presence on farms - esp. sheep farms - over the years partly due to the declining profitability of many types of livestock enterprise - esp. smaller units - which has ;led farmers to cut costs and veterinary attention if often cut back in such circumstances.

> so I can understand that
>mistakes could have been made here.

Should we be so accepting/tolerant of this? Should the policy not have been changed to accommodate the restricted and inadequate resources available to deal with it?

> Expensive
>mistakes in terms of animals culled!

But not only in terms of animals culled - the scale of the cull - largely a result of the unjustified voluntary pre-emptive culls, the firebreak culls and the 48 hour contiguous cull - led directly to the intractable carcase disposal problems and also exacerbated the people/skills resource problem, radically increased the number of farms under the strictest restrictions and the scale of the area under restriction and the impact on tourism - and all the cost and losses associated with this.

> One thing I forgot to ask in my query to you is why
>the #2 million average cost of cleaning and
>disinfecting farms KNOWN to have tested negative?
>Buildings pulled down, all wooden fences, doors etc
>burned, metal gate fittings buried, stone yards
>broken up and concreted, and in some cases a foot of
>topsoil removed. It does seem a little extreme.

It does doesn't it. I guess if I was being 'charitable' I'd say that they can't be sure that these farms are not infected because they didn't take enough samples nor did they sample enough animals to be confident that the farms are clear of FMDV - all they did (sometimes) was to take a small number of samples from a relatively few animals for diagnostic purposes - this procedure/protocol is not adequate to declare a whole farm clear. They merely killed, as one dissenting TVI said, 'without rhyme or reason' without even thinking of the consequences WRT carcass disposal or clean up costs.

MAFF and the leading vet organisations excuse all this on the grounds of the 'need for speed' to combat the disease and Dick Sibley, President of the British Cattle Vet. Association, described the downside consequences on Radio 5 Live yesterday as 'the price we had to pay'. This 'excuse' is totally unacceptable. This 'need for speed' is just not true in most instances. Once movement restrictions are in place and effective biosecurity put in place the virus is 'going nowhere' as Paul Kitching has pointed out. Donaldson et al's papers in the Vet Record show that the chances of farm to farm transmission by means of airborne spread are very small in most circumstances. It is well established that movement restrictions and biosecurity are by far the two most important and effective factors in controlling the spread of FMDV - followed by the rapid slaughter and disposal of INFECTED animals as soon as they can be identified - and the labs were fully capable of returning results within 8 hours from samples taken from a cattle herd in Glos,. even early on in the epidemic. The many unnecessary culls - voluntary, firebreak and contiguous - consumed and diverted scarce resources from more the really important tasks.