Parallels, differences and lessons: a comparison of the management of foot-and-mouth disease and COVID-19 using UK 2001/2020 as points of reference. uri icon

abstract

  • Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is an extremely infectious viral infection of cloven-hoofed animals which is highly challenging to control and can give rise to national animal health crises, especially if there is a lack of pre-existing immunity due to the emergence of new strains or following incursions into disease-free regions. The 2001 FMD epidemic in the UK was on a scale that initially overwhelmed the national veterinary services and was eventually controlled by livestock lockdown and slaughter on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, the rapid emergence of COVID-19 has led to a human pandemic unparalleled in living memory. The enormous logistics of multi-agency control efforts for COVID-19 are reminiscent of the 2001 FMD epidemic in the UK, as are the use of movement restrictions, not normally a feature of human disease control. The UK experience is internationally relevant as few countries have experienced national epidemic crises for both diseases. In this review, we reflect on the experiences and lessons learnt from UK and international responses to FMD and COVID-19 with respect to their management, including the challenge of preclinical viral transmission, threat awareness, early detection, different interpretations of scientific information, lockdown, biosecurity behaviour change, shortage of testing capacity and the choices for eradication versus living with infection. A major lesson is that the similarity of issues and critical resources needed to manage large-scale outbreaks demonstrates that there is benefit to a 'One Health' approach to preparedness, with potential for greater cooperation in planning and the consideration of shared critical resources.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020