2. The likely start date for 2001 UK epidemicThis date will probably never be known, but the Dutch explanation of events does not tie in with the version presented in the Lessons to be Learned Inquiry.
The Dutch explanation is likely to be the more accurate version, otherwise it is difficult to explain how France or Holland became infected by UK livestock.a) Incomplete explanation of initial spread of disease as presented in the Lessons to be Learned Inquiry
Burnside Farm, Heddon most likely infected 7 February. Virus plume infects Prestwick Hall Farm 5kms north east.
Prestwick Hall Farm most likely infected 12 February. Infected Sheep sent to Hexham market 13 February.
Hexham Market most likely infected 13 February.
b) Dutch explanation presented to EU Veterinary standing committee 3-4 AprilStaging post at Mayenne (France) received 7 shipments of sheep from UK FMD case 11 between 5 February and 19 February. The sheep were subsequently found to be seropositive.
A contact herd within 500m of the staging post became the first case of foot and mouth disease in France on 13 February 2001 ( ie the same day as Hexham market supposedly became infected ).
Some calves from Ireland moved through Mayenne on 23 February on their way to Holland.
It was these calves who were thought to have brought foot and mouth disease to Holland; these calves were thought to have been exposed to disease during the 12 hours they spent at Mayenne.
DEFRA's Version of how UK FMD 11 became infected(source: History of the epidemic 21 October 2001)
On 18 February infected sheep arrived at FMD case 11 which is in Hereford; these sheep originated from Longtown market ( or had been in close contact with sheep from Longtown market) and were originally purchased by the farmer of case number 7.
The farmer of case 7 purchased the sheep from Longtown market before 20 February (precise date not specified) took them to his farm in Devon and then sent them to the Hereford farm case 11.
The 18 February is the earliest date infected sheep were thought to be on the Hereford Farm (11), therefore, it is not possible that sheep from this farm could have infected the staging post at Mayenne around 13 February.
If sheep from case 11 infected the staging post at Mayenne then infection must have been present on case 11 sometime before the 8 February ( allowing for an incubation period for the first case in France).
It is not possible for both the Dutch and UK explanations to be correct.
The most likely explanation is that the UK epidemic actually started at least a week earlier: that is around 1 February 2001 - or that Burnside Farm is not the index source farm - i.e. FMD case 11 is actually the index source farm and was infected around 8 February.
(Lessons Learned Report page 52) " Positive test samples from sheep, exported from Wales on 31 January 2001 and arriving in France on 8 February, suggested that FMD had been in Wales in January 2001. When FMD broke out in the UK, the French authorities as a precaution culled all the sheep imported from the UK from 1 February and took blood samples. In an initial virus neutralisation test carried out on this particular group of animals, seven out of 31 samples appeared positive.What the Lessons Learned Report does not say however is that the samples seem to have disappeared shortly after the British Government were told that the results were not positive after all.
We visited France and met the officials involved in these tests. They were absolutely clear that the first tests they carried out were false positives. When further tests were performed using protocols applied by other laboratories around the world, all samples gave negative results."