Kiwi Skills Help in UK Foot-and-Mouth Disease Crisis

26 February 2001

A team of four people is currently in London, providing specialist skills to contribute to the management of Britain's foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada participate in a 'veterinary reserves' agreement. This means that when a country is dealing with an outbreak of a disease such as FMD, expertise and resources can be requested from other participating countries. In the spirit of this agreement, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry offered assistance to MAFF UK last week.

The work of two of the team members - a veterinarian and an expert in tracing operations - is funded by MAF. The vet is a specialist in veterinary epidemiology, with skills in the management of an outbreak response and expertise in the science behind response decision-making. The tracing expert is employed by AgriQuality - a major service provider to MAF. His skills are in tracing the movements of livestock and products in order to determine where the disease came from and plot where it could potentially spread to. While the New Zealanders' expertise is undoubtedly valuable, the operation will be a two-way street, giving the Kiwis first-hand experience of dealing with FMD.

The other two team members are from the EpiCentre at Massey University and will work on the information systems required to handle the outbreak.

New Zealand has the most advanced information system in the world for handling FMD and other epidemic diseases. Known as EpiMAN, it was developed at the Massey University EpiCentre in conjunction with the New Zealand MAF and AgriQuality New Zealand.

Subsequently the European Commission funded a project to adapt the system for European use, and the British government purchased the rights to use the system. However it had not been fully installed and made operational in Britain before the FMD outbreak. The team, funded jointly by the UK government and the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has now installed the system, which is now supporting the search for any remaining infected properties.

EpiMAN is a very advanced software system which manages staff and other resources to control the outbreak as rapidly as possible, and can predict exactly where the virus is likely to spread on the wind. It has a range of other advanced features as well, which in combination are designed to minimise the risk of very large outbreaks by identifying infected farms rapidly - allowing the stamping out of infection in affected areas.

While in the UK, the four specialists will work under the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) command structure for managing the FMD outbreak, and will work under MAFF direction. (Note reporters - the command structure will have its own requirements for media management which the Kiwis will need to adhere to.)

For further information contact:

Matthew Stone (MAF) 025 332 509 or Professor Roger Morris (Massey University) 021 638 945.

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