(Highlighting in red by warmwell.com. Apologies to NFMG)
 

FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE LESSONS LEARNED INQUIRY

Note of Meeting with:

NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP

 

22 May 2002        2.05pm  -  4.15pm    

 

Present:      Matthew Hill – LLI – Cabinet Office

                    Min Min Teh  -  LLI – Cabinet Office

                    Rupert Cazalet  -  LLI – Cabinet Office

 

                    Janet Bayley  -  National Foot & Mouth Group

                    Paul Berkeley  -  National Foot & Mouth Group

 

1          NFMG presented computer slides showing the Global spread of FMD Pan Asia ‘O’ strain.  These demonstrated the origin of disease in Indian Sub Continent in 1990 and increasing geographic dispersal from Country to Country.  Most importantly the slides highlighted the inter-continental movement of the disease with huge jumps to other continents, namely; to  Saudi Arabia in 1994,  to Europe, occurring in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey by 1996 and to South Africa in 2000.  Source FAO/WRL - Pirbright.

 

2          The Group then referred to the EU FMD Conference Committee Minutes of 63rd and 64th Sessions of the Commission.  These recognised the increasing spread of Pan Asia ‘O’ strain of FMD and the ensuing risk of FMD entering further European Member states.  NFMG drew attention to the Conclusions and  Recommendations of the 64th Session in March 2000 that stated that Member states: “note the deteriorating FMD situation …and strengthen and heighten their preparedness and awareness of the risks of FMD.”

 

Points 1 and 2 demonstrated that there was an ever increasing risk of FMD spreading to the UK and Europe, that this had been recognised, and that contingency plans needed to be prepared and constantly revised and updated.

 

The Group asked ‘Why did this not happen in the UK?’  It was not a question of IF the disease will arrive, but WHEN.  There was no follow up by the UK to either the EU Contingency Plan for FMD of 1993, or the EU Strategy for the Use of Emergency Vaccination for FMD adopted in March1999.

 

 

3          Dr Teh (LLI) pointed out that the Executive Committee of the EU FMD did not have statutory or legislative powers.  >The view of NFMG was that there was little point in such advisory bodies being set up and funded to advise the EU and its Member states, if due regard was not given to their conclusions and recommendations – and that these should have been fed into the decision making process of the EU and its Member States.

 

 

4          NFMG drew attention to the spread of disease within first 3 days in the UK – and the evidence that the 3=  day delay in imposing national movement restrictions resulted in the epidemic being 30 – 50% more widespread than it should have been.  The Group referred to Prof Mark Woolhouse’s figures as presented to the EFRA Sel Committee Report of 7 November 2001.

            NFMG reported that auctioneers did not want to proceed with livestock markets once the disease had been confirmed but were instructed to do so by MAFF.  Furthermore, the number of animals going through the markets was further increased with those animals which could not be exported with the export ban in place.

            The 3 = day delay in imposing nation wide movement restrictions meant that instead of confining the outbreak it became massively dispersed and disseminated.

5          Asked by Mr Hill if the Group recommended nation wide movement restrictions and how these should be imposed the Group responded:

            An absolute standstill of animal movements was needed as soon as the disease is lab confirmed.

            Stop animals in transit and return to source farm – to confine infected animals to origins.  Markets to advise their dealers not to set off for market.  Animals already in lairage at markets should be immediately tested and monitored.

6          The Group related the concerns in Forest of Dean and the massive public opposition to the contiguous culls.  The contiguous premises were clearly not infected as none were showing any signs of disease 3-5 weeks post the ‘Infected’ premises being slaughtered.

Within 5 days of the protests at farm gates, demanding that animals be blood tested, a public meeting was held in the Forest of Dean attended by over 350 local people and the Divisional Vet Manager for Gloucestershire.   The DVM said he had asked Page St to be allowed to blood test but had been refused.  However he agreed to halt the contiguous cull for 48 hours while the Community lobbied Govt  and agreed to support the call for blood tests to be undertaken. 

MAFF eventually agreed to do this.  All 34 of the directed Contig Culls in the FOD were negative. 

The area was the first to realise that incidence of disease was not as being stated by MAFF. Many so called ‘Infected’ premises had already returned negative results.

            Details were  sought from MAFF of lab test results – Letters of 1 & 14 May 2001 (App 15 & 16 NFMG Submission) – answers were not produced until Parliamentary Question raised in November – finally answered Jan 2002.  (PQ 2164) Why was there this delay?

            The Group have still not had an answer to their question “What is the legal definition of a ‘Confirmed Case’ – is it a) clinical signs,  b) antibodies or c)the presence of live virus.

            The results in PQ 2164 showed that not only had very few premises been tested but that in many counties, of the so called ‘Infected premises’ very few had had the disease confirmed in the lab.   As detailed in Appendices 4&5 of NFMG Main Submission

            They referred LLI to the Vet Record letter of 19 May 2001 – Kitching and Donaldson.  (App 3)

 

 

7          Mr Hill asked what lessons were to be learnt from this:

            The Group replied: 

            Diagnosis must be accurate and reliable

Lab test provision must be available to confirm diagnosis – there is too much at stake to allow for any vagaries or inaccuracies. 

The use of PCR must be included as a validated and authorised test and this should be available in regional labs,  

Where necessary lab testing should be supplemented by private sector laboratories with the appropriate level of testing facilities. 

Farm gate and pen side tests should also be validated and authorised with all urgency.

There needed to be much greater involvement of local vets with local knowledge – particularly as the SVS has been much reduced in recent years.

 Diagnosis must free of any political constraint.

 

           

 

8          The Group then referred to the evidence of Dr Paul Kitching, Former head of FMD at IAH Pirbright – 3 items – Notes to Judi Bell of Burges Salmon, C4 News Transcript 21 April 2001, Independent on Sunday report of 24 June 2001.  Plus Vet Record Papers and letters.  (Apps 3, 8, 9, 10, 13 & 14 – NFMG Submission)

            Also to letters of Prof Bob Michell and others in Vet Record and Papers from Donaldson & Kitching.

The Group said:   That airborne transmission had been grossly over stated and that the Contiguous Cull, 3km and Firebreak Cull policy was totally unnecessary to control the disease.   It was not clear who had taken the decisions to proceed with Contiguous Cull, 3km and Firebreak Cull and on the basis of what information.

The Group then expressed its concerns that the various modellers were given greater credence than the views of the leading FMD Scientists at Pirbright, Dr Paul Kitching, who appeared to have been sidelined, and Dr Alex Donaldson.

Asked by Mr Hill why Paul Kitching was sidelined – the Group suggested that that question be put to Paul Kitching – who they assumed the LLI would be interviewing in the course of the Inquiry as he was the former head of FMD at Pirbright and one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.  

9          In addition the NFMG were concerned that the statements of Prof King, the Govt’s Chief Scientific adviser, in support of adopted control policies, and that these statements were not founded on empirical evidence or supported by any factual information.

            This evidence which was presented to the EFRA Sel Cttee of 7 November 2001 is the only opportunity that the Group have had to see Prof King’s and the Science Groups views and evidence. 

            The case for Contiguous , 3km, Firebreak Culls has not been proven.

 

            The disease had already peaked (28 Mar 2001) by the time the Contiguous Cull measures were introduced.  The measures only served to slow down the correct diagnosis and disposal of truly infected ‘Infected Premises’ and increase the logistical problems of slaughter and disposal.  As a result this greatly added to the impacts on wider rural economy, communities, etc.

            The Group referred to Prof King’s evidence to the EFRA Sel Committee of 7 November Para 171/172 and Para 180/181 where he maintains that 17% of Contiguous premises would have been incubating the disease.

            However from PQ 2164 it can be seen that only 3.69% of the Dangerous Contact, Slaughter on Suspicion and Contiguous Cull cases subsequently  became infected – not 17% as maintained by Prof King.

            See Para 5.5.3 to 5.5.5 of NFMG main evidence.

Yet these measures resulted in an even greater impact from the disease than need ever have been the case.

The Group referred to the evidence of Forest of Dean, Glos, Herefordshire, Worcs, Anglesey etc, (PQ 2164 and Apps 4 & 5) and Gt Orton, that there were very few positive cases found on lab testing and yet massive numbers of farms had been culled. 

The figures for Gt Orton, which had only recently become available, showed that of all the animals that were sent to Gt Orton, 500,000, only 1 farm had the disease truly confirmed with 9 positive animals.

The subsequent  impact of the extensive, unnecessary slaughter, economic losses, cost to rural communities, social and ethical aspects were highlighted.  These clearly showed that the adopted means of control, when related to the levels of disease actually confirmed in the lab,  were totally inappropriate.

 

The fundamental lesson was that the Contiguous, 3km and Firebreak Culls should never be applied again.  These measures did not assist in controlling the disease and greatly increased its impact.

 

Dangerous Contact cases and those thought to have been exposed  to the disease (Suspicion cases) should be monitored and tested.

 

10        What was needed in the event of future outbreaks was a strict adherence to the Science of FMD.

            This involved immediate standstill of all animal movements as soon as the disease is confirmed.

            For all farmers and livestock owners to be clear about monitoring and surveillance of their animals in order to recognise any suspect symptoms.

            Fast and accurate diagnosis, confirmed by lab testing, or preferably pen side/farm gate provisions.

             Infected Premises should be slaughtered with 24 hours of confirmation and proper logistic arrangements need to be in place for safe and humane slaughter and disposal.

            The imposition of effective and enforced farm quarantine and appropriate bio-security arrangements.

            Adherence to pre-determined protocols of safe animal separation distances between adjacent farms and holdings.

            Local discretion to be given to local and regional practitioners and DVMs, and regard be had to appropriate risk assessment.

            Decisions must have regard to the inter-dependent and inter-related nature of the rural situation. 

            In addition, appropriate plans must be in place to apply vaccination from the outset of the disease.  (See later)

 

11            Decision not to Vaccinate.  What was this based on and was it valid?

            NFMG then outlined the role of those on Stakeholder and Science Group meetings – and the role of the NFU and others who argued against vaccination.   What did these bodies base their views on and was the weight given to their concerns proportionate and reasonable – given that the effects of the epidemic ranged across an inter-dependent and inter-related rural society and economy?

            With reference to NFU Questions, FSA, etc Retail Consortium letter and the position of Nestle, and the NFMG letter to the NFU of 23 August 2001 (App 19, etc).

            The Group concluded that a great deal of mis-information had been circulated regarding vaccination and that the views of the NFU and the BCVA were not substantiated by facts.   The weight given to those representing the agriculture sector was inbalanced and little cognisance was given to the requirements of the wider rural economy and its society.  

            Furthermore, disproportionate weight had been attached to the case of some particular operations, for example Nestle, whose concerns were allowed to outweigh the much wider interests of the UK tourism industry – and the need for a swift return to normality for all sectors of society.

12        The Group was very concerned that the EU Directive on Vaccination Compensation: 90/424/EEC: Council Decision of 26 June 1990 was not brought to farmers, and others, notice.  One of the key areas of concern had been that of loss of market value of vaccinated stock – and yet a fundamental piece of legislation that covered this was not mentioned or discussed.  See NFU Questions 41,42 and 46, and Article 3 and Article 11 of the EU Directive.

 

13        The Group referred to Lord Whitty’s answer in the Lords (25 March 2002) which stated that it is not known how much vaccinated meat and meat products are entering the UK as there is no requirement for such products to be labelled – it was thus extraordinary that the debate about the consumption of vaccinated products was allowed to become such an issue.  There were clear lessons here for the role of public information in such circumstances.

14            Regarding the loss of Disease Free Status, Cost Benefit Analysis – and the importance of returning to normality for all concerned.  The Group’s view was that vaccination should have been pursued.  It would have been far preferable to vaccinate and lose the export markets for a year – value circa £500 million, rather than adopt the slaughter and cull policy which inflicted massive and disproportionate losses to so many sectors of the rural economy and caused widespread disruption to rural communities.

Furthermore, ethical and moral implications directed that the slaughter of 10 million animals, the vast majority of which were healthy, was totally unacceptable.

 

15            Dealing with the risk of further infection and outbreaks, the Group reported that we do not know what is coming into Europe or the UK.  They referred to Lord Whitty’s answer to the Lords and information from Defra, as contained in their main submission.  App 6&7 .

Border Inspections could not be always be applied or enforced.  The Group related its discussions with Tony Garland, formerly of IAH Pirbright, who confirmed the great difficulty in dealing with the sheer volume of people, animals, goods and food crossing borders and boundaries 

With increased globalisation and the movement of trade and people risks of importation of infection were far more likely to increase than diminish.

Furthermore, in many areas of the world the disease was endemic.

 

16        The Group said that we need to be prepared to deal with disease in a manner which minimises impact:.

            The Key Lesson was that there is an ethical, moral and social responsibility for a modern, humane and civilised approach to disease using modern science – not primitive and arbitrary control. 

Vaccination provided that modern means of control and a programme for its use must be drawn up and adopted now..

17            Overcoming the perceived drawbacks to vaccination, the Group referred to:

            Carriers, trade restrictions, consumption of vaccinated products, loss of market value, disease free status and exports.

            The Group’s view is that the return to Export Markets should be based on science based risk assessment – not arbitrary time scales, and referred to the earlier discussion about imports of vaccinated products which demonstrated that there is no reason for consumer resistance to the consumption of vaccinated products.

            As regards carriers and disease free status – the programme that they had developed for the use of vaccination in the future overcame both these objections.

18        Modern Vaccines and Tests

            and

            Future Control of FMD – Draft Programme for the Containment, Control and Eradication of FMD incorporating Emergency Protective Vaccination.

            The Group reported that Modern Non Structural Protein Free Vaccines and FMD Marker tests to differentiate between vaccinates and non-vaccinates have been available for some time.

            Furthermore, a proposal was now before the OIE to reduce the time scale to return to DFS post vaccination from 12 months to 6 months, if NSP free vaccines and the appropriate tests are used.

            These issues had been discussed with the Royal Society Inquiry and the  NFMG Programme had now been submitted to the Royal Society Inquiry and to the EU Inquiry.

 

19        The Group believe that what is now needed are the funding and resources for WRL to validate and authorise:

            1            PCR for diagnostic purposes,

2          The real–time PCR, Smart Cycler, etc for pen side and farm gate testing 

3            NSP Free Vaccines, and  

4          Marker tests which differentiate between response to infection and response to vaccination with NSP free vaccines,  eg Intervet ABC Checkit system.

 

            Political will and proper funding is needed to achieve this.

            The Group then referred to the reduction in Defra budget and research allocation funding.

20        The Group asked that their Conclusions and Recommendations - as per the NFMG Submission, were adopted, and that the Lessons Learned Inquiry endorsed the approach advocated in their Vaccination Programme.

 

PAPERS FOR DISCUSSION

 

1          Main Submission of NFMG and Appendices – March 2002

2          NFMG & Vets for Vaccination Draft Programme for the Containment, Control and Eradication of FMD incorporating Emergency, Protective Vaccination

            and appendices – April 2002

 3          Set of Slides demonstrating origin and spread of Pan Asia ‘O’ Strain of FMD

4          EU FMD Conference Reports for 63rd and 64th Sessions 

5          PQ 2164 – Reply of 8 January 2002 – Tables (iii) and (iv)

6            Transcript of Dr Paul Kitching Interview with Channel 4 News 21 April 2001 and Independent on Sunday Report of 24 June 2001 of interview with Dr Kitching

7          EFRA Select Committee First Report on FMD and appendices – Jan 2002

8            Evidence of Alex Birtwistle and Will Cockbain – presented to Cumbria Inquiry

9          NFU Questions to MAFF and Answers – April 2001

10        EU Decision:   90/424/EEC: Council Decision of 26 June 1990 on expenditure in the veterinary field  Official Journal L 224 , 18/08/1990 P. 0019 - 0028

            Ref: Compensation for Vaccination

11        Memo to Sir Brian Follett and RS Inquiry – which relates to Lord Whitty’s statement re Levels of imports of vaccinates and non-vaccinates into the UK is not known, EU Compensation for Vaccination in relation to FMD and letter of British Retail Consortium.