History of the World's Worst Ever Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic - U.K. Outbreak 2001

History of the World's Worst Ever
Foot and Mouth Epidemic

United Kingdom & European Union 2001

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Britain Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks epidemicFoot-and-Mouth Disease in England FMD viruses


Part 1  - How it all began! -  February 19th 2001

Terminology:  "cases" versus  "outbreaks"
The UK Agriculture Ministry (called "MAFF" at the start of the epidemic but changing it's name to "DEFRA" towards the end) used the term "case" to describe FMD infection confirmed a new location, but this generates confusion with the usual use of "case" to refer to an individual diseased or infected animal, so here we use the
internationally accepted term "outbreak" to refer to infection at a new location (a farm or abattoir that was previously uninfected)


History of UK FMD epidemic 2001: Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8

*Latest FMD News     *FMD 2001 photos & resources

Spread of Foot and Mouth in the UK 2001 - Animation of the epidemic
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FMD Cases are yellow on day 1, red on day 2 and orange on day 3 onwards.


The origin of this terrible epidemic

The UK State Veterinary Service (SVS) believe that the epidemic originated on a swill (garbage) feeding farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall in the county of Tyne and Wear. From here the virus spread, probably by wind, to a sheep farm 7 km away, and from there was spread via sheep markets to 96 locations in different parts of the country. The epidemic was only discovered when cull sows from the pig farm went to an abattoir in Essex, where the virus spread by cross-infection of pens to a group of finishing pigs which were held in pens over the weekend - sufficient time to allow clinical signs to appear. This Type O Pan-Asia strain of FMD virus has a very short incubation period (can be less than 48 hours) in swine.

*43 farms infected in the 3 weeks before the epidemic was detected (CVO Report)

First Clinical Signs of FMD were detected on February 19th (day 1)

Outbreaks 1 & 2: FMD virus infection was confirmed on 20th February (day 2) in samples taken the previous day from pigs at an abattoir at Little Warley, near Brentwood, Essex. Infection was also confirmed in 1 bull on a cattle fattening farm one mile away (under same ownership as the abattoir). The abattoir took animals from over 600 farms all over the country, including N. Ireland, and was an important meat exporter.
Movement restriction zones affecting all farm livestock were placed around the abattoir and around farms in Stroud, Gloucestershire, Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire and Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

A veterinary inspector from the State Veterinary Service of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF), undertaking routine inspections, raised the alarm after visiting the abattoir on February 19th (day 1) and seeing vesicular lesions on 27 sows and one boar.

Vesicles (skin blisters) are a characteristic symptom of foot and mouth disease. The infected pigs arrived at the abattoir on 16 February from the farms in Buckinghamshire and the Isle of Wight. FMD is a highly infectious and notifiable virus disease which can also affect cattle, deer, goats & sheep, more rarely it can affect hedgehogs, rats, elephants, giraffes and antelopes. There is a growing population of llamas and alpacas in Britain, who are also susceptible to FMD virus. The virus produces blisters in the mouth area, sometimes causing profuse salivation. Blisters (vesicles) can also appear on the feet and result in lameness. Deaths are unusual, but affected animals may lose weight weight. There is no cure but the disease only lasts for two or three weeks and most animals recover. However, FMD causes major economic and trading difficulties for infected countries. The last outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom was in 1981, most recent outbreak in European Union was in Greece.

BBC interview recordings   1967 epidemic in UK   Times report   Economic implications   FMD facts (OIE)

Criticism of early MAFF action ("Farmers Weekly" magazine)


Events on Thursday February 22nd (day 4)

3rd outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease confirmed in cattle on a farm in Great Warley, near Brentwood in Essex (1.5 km from infected abattoir) in area already under restriction, 4 cattle with symptoms destroyed immediately, 200 more to be destroyed today
BBC report & Map   Telegraph
8km restriction area placed around cull sow dealer and feeder farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall in Tyne and Wear with highly suspicious disease in a number of pigs, linked to the first confirmed outbreak the Essex abattoir.
The Countryside Alliance has banned all hunting for a period of 7 days to avoid risk of mechanical spread of FMD
346 pigs and 32 cattle had been destroyed so far (1 bull and 28 pigs have shown symptoms), at the abattoir in Essex and the nearby farm under same ownership, where a bull developed signs of FMD.
A suspect outbreak reported in a bullock at an abattoir in Guildford, Surrey, is now believed to be a case of footrot.
European Commission announces protective measures.
The UK virus is of type "0" subtype Pan-Asian, this is identical to the virus in some of the recent outbreaks in South Africa, where food waste sold illegally from an Asian boat in Durban harbor was fed as pig swill. This strain was first recognised in India in 1990 and has spread widely in the world since then. Japan allegedly may have become infected via hay and silage from China (possibly contaminated with faeces, urine or saliva from infected animals). Outbreaks in South Korea were suspected to have possibly arisen from dust storms in China. The UK virus is probably distinct from recent outbreaks in Swaziland, but resembles viruses in recent outbreaks in South America and parts of Asia.
All UK exports of livestock, meat products and milk have been banned
Restrictions have been placed on a farm in East Yorkshire, as a precaution, the farm had sent an old boar to Essex for slaughter, that had passed through Selby livestock market.

Events on Friday February 23rd (day 5)

4th outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease confirmed at village of Canewdon, Essex, six miles from the Essex abattoir, there are suspicions that this farm was infected via human movement.
5th outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease confirmed on a farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, which had supplied cull sows to the Essex abattoir, this is suspected of being the source of the abattoir infection, and is believed to have been infected for some time Report
MAFF report to World Organisation for Animal Health: OIE
132 tonnes of meat was exported from the abbatoir to Germany last week. Britain exported 160,414 tons of pork to the European Union, worth £111M between December 1999 and November 2000
Farm in Northumberland under investigation - supplied animals to the Essex abattoir.
6th outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease confirmed in cattle on a farm in Ponteland, Northumberland, four miles from outbreak 5. Pigs on Northumberland farm outbreak 5 have been showing symptoms for at least 14 days. FMD in Northumberland very worrying - many free-ranging cattle and sheep. Many areas of the UK, including Essex, have a significant wild deer population. Possible outbreak of FMD being investigated by the state veterinary service on a pig farm in Fyvie in Aberdeenshire, 8 km movement restrictions around it

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has ordered a 7 day ban on all farm livestock movements
(excluding horses, milk and poultry) in the United Kingdom

BBC radio Essex report that all 500 pigs at the Canewdon infected farm are being slaughtered today. In Northern Ireland, Stormont agriculture minister, Brid Rodgers said that tests on 3 farms that supplied pigs to the Essex abattoir found no trace of foot-and-mouth virus. In Germany, because of the importation of breeding pigs from the UK the ministry of agriculture is checking all farms which received livestock from Britain since February 1st.  FAO warn of Pandemic   Telegraph


Events on Saturday February 24th (day 6)
bad weather and other problems have delayed the on-site incineration of hundreds of carcases in Northumberland

Stories are circulating that the source farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall may have fed unsterilised food waste to pigs. There were apparently local complaints about serious hygiene and pig welfare problems on the farm for some months but MAFF allegedly failed to take effective action. The farm's 300 sows and 200 young pigs are being destroyed and incinerated today. Precautionary slaughtering of two in-contact farms in Northumberland and N. Kent is taking place. Kent is an area where wild pigs are present.
Media reports: Guardian   Yahoo   BBC   Telegraph


Events on February 25th (day 7)

Huge fire burning tonight (photo) in Northumberland containing 200 cattle and 800 pigs from two infected farms. The fire is 100 metres long and expected to burn for 24 hours. The incineration pyres are constructed of railway sleepers, bags of coal and a layer of hay or straw, carcases are soaked in diesel oil. Carcases are also being incinerated on-site in Essex.
1,300 pigs, 450 cattle and 250 sheep on six farms have been destroyed so far, to control FMD.

7th outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease confirmed in 600 cattle and 1,500 sheep on farm in Highampton, North Devon
The premises have been exporting livestock to Europe (prior to the ban last week) particularly France. The company own 12 other farms in Cornwall and Devon and also has contacts in the North of England. There is no known link to other confirmed outbreaks. First sign was a mouth ulcer in a cow, but 50 other cattle now showing early symptoms. FMD is difficult to diagnose in sheep.
BBC report   EU policy on FMD vaccination
Media reports: BBC   German crisis centre


Events on February 26th (day 8)

Outbreaks 8 & 9: One at an abattoir containing 1,400 sheep and 30 cattle in Bromham, Wiltshire (a lamb from Devon outbreak 7 had shown symptoms)
Other outbreak at a second farm in Highampton, Devon (under same ownership as outbreak 7) where two cattle displayed symptoms of foot-and-mouth out in a herd of 60 cattle and 20 sheep BBC report
Sheep with FMD symptoms found at abattoir at Gaerwen on the island of Anglesey, Wales
There are more suspected outbreaks of FMD under investigation in Aberdeenshire and Gloucester.
Germany: Animals imported from Britain are being destroyed in North-West Rhein Westfalia
The Devon farmer whose farm was outbreak 7, confirmed yesterday, says that he has not exported any livestock since suspected infected sheep brought the virus onto his farm. The sheep had been traded at Hexham Market and subsequently travelled from the north east of England to Devon.
The UK Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, is due to travel to Brussels today to discuss the situation with other EU farm ministers. He will also make a statement in Parliament his afternoon.
Outbreak 10 at Westerhope, 5 miles from outbreak 5 in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, thought to have been infected via wind spread
Outbreak 11 on farm in Llancloudy, Herefordshire
Outbreak 12 on farm in Okehampton, Devon BBC report     *Control Measures in Europe
Abattoir in Anglesey - diagnosis still not clear, case was a 1 year old lamb, lame and with lesions around the mouth. Abattoir under police guard.
Incineration pyre under construction at Prestwick farm, Northumberland, close to Newcastle airport
Guardian   FMD may have spread to Europe   BBC   Switzerland concern


Events on February 27th (day 9)

Over 7,000 animals now destroyed or awaiting destruction, freezing temperatures and snow adding to problems
Outbreak 13: lamb in Anglesey abattoir (see below) probably linked to market in Yorkshire

How the virus spread (Guardian)   Situation in Europe (BBC)   UK effects (Telegraph)
Outbreak 14: sheep at farm in Wolsingham, Co. Durham, originating in Darlington market
Outbreak 15: sheep farm, Withnell, Lancashire, probable origin Hexham market
Outbreak 16 : sheep at Wooton, Northants, linked to existing outbreaks
The Government is taking powers to close public footpaths where necessary
BBC Report

Outbreak 17: abattoir, Witton le Wear, County Durham
Outbreak 18: abattoir, Okehampton, Devon
7 day ban on UK internal livestock movements extended 2 more weeks BBC Report Horse racing cancelled
Rugby football match between Ireland and Wales in Cardiff cancelled - fear that supporters might spread FMD virus
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has announced Government applying for £152M agrimoney compensation for beef, sheep and dairy farmers, arising from the drop in incomes for the year 2000. £16M would be taken from future budgets of the pig industry restructuring scheme for those who need help now.


Events on February 28th (day 10) - an 'outbreak' becomes an 'epidemic'

EU Standing Veterinary Committee issues a press release on the situation.

Outbreaks 19-22 (sheep): farm in Llangowan, Herefordshire; farm at Paincastle near Hay on Wye, Powys, Wales; farm at Felindre near Newtown, Powys; abattoir at Great Harwood, near Preston, Lancashire. Outbreaks probably related to sheep marketing movements prior to movement ban
Germany: FMD antibodies (low levels) found in 3 sheep on farm near Dusseldorf, North Rhein Westfalia, imported from the United Kingdom, 2,000 sheep imported from the UK have beeen destroyed. UK CVO says that the antibodies are probably not significant.
demon of Foot-and-Mouth disease stalks British farms Approximately 11,000 animals now destroyed and over 100 farms around the country under restrictions as contacts or suspected outbreaks.
Outbreak in N. Ireland strongly suspected, flock slaughtered in South Armagh, 200 sheep were imported from UK market, only 20 have been traced. Concerns that animals may have been moved into the Republic of Ireland - where 1,300 sheep already destroyed which had been imported from Devon.
Outbreaks 23-24: sheep farm in Stonesby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire and at another farm in Highampton, Devon
Outbreaks 25-26: farm at North Fambridge, near Chelmsford, Essex on land owned by the Essex wildlife trust, with 600 sheep and 2 pigs. Farm in Warwickshire
Outbreak 27: Lindley Hall Farm near Hinckley in Leicestershire (BBC report, other media not reporting this outbreak)

Map of outbreaks (bottom of page)   UK effects (Guardian)


**NEW!**New Front-line Story & Insights - February 2006**NEW!**
The UK & European Union Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic of 2001
Following Orders by James Drew - story of U.K. pig disease epidemic of classical swine fever in year 2000 and world's worst epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in UK 2001
New Revelations in 2006! - Fifth Anniversary of the UK & EU FMD Outbreak
"Following Orders" is the shocking inside story about the U.K. pig disease epidemic of classical swine fever in 2000 and the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in UK in 2001
A dramatised story told by a vet in the UK Government Veterinary service of true-life emotional trauma in rural communities resulting from disease control measures.
An horrendous but true life picture of how mindless bureaucracy, remote administrative management and official insensitive heavy-handiness can produce enormous distress in farming families and terrible environmental damage to the countryside.

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Stages in the Unfolding of the UK & EU FMD crisis 2001-2002

From Outbreak (this page) to Epidemic to Endemic to Depopulation to Disaster
to Time-bomb to Rural rasure to Recovery to Healing & Transformation

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