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Glasgow 2001 Friday, 7 September, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
International 'vaccine debate needed'
Slaughtered livestock PA
Nearly four million animals have been killed so far
Britain should initiate an international debate on the use of vaccination to prevent another "inevitable" foot-and-mouth epidemic, scientists said on Friday.

The disease could be eradicated globally if all countries adopted a vaccination policy, said Professor Fred Brown, who helped the UK government tackle the last serious outbreak of the disease in 1967.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 2,007
Animals slaughtered: 3,825,000
Awaiting slaughter: 11,636
Vaccinating all susceptible animals could in future protect the whole of the EU against a repeat of the British experience, said Professor Dave Rowlands, professor of microbiology at Leeds University.

Vaccination should be "looked closely at" once the current outbreak is over, said Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University, an epidemiologist who advises the government.

Global risk

Professor Brown, visiting scientist at the Plum Island laboratories, the United States centre for research on the virus, made a fresh call for the use of vaccination against the farm virus at the British Association Festival of Science in Glasgow.

"I would like to see some international debate about vaccination policies," he said. "Every country in the world is at risk."

Disinfectant is sprayed on the road PA
The UK Government believes its slaughter policy will win out
Earlier, Professor Brown told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that falling numbers of new cases were an opportunity for vaccination.

He said: "Vaccination does work - just look at the record when they vaccinated in Europe. The number of outbreaks has dropped dramatically.

"It would cut down the virus load. Even if a vaccinated animal became infected the amount of virus produced would be much, much lower and there would be less virus to disseminate."

Professor Brown said there were tests to distinguish animals with the disease from those that had been vaccinated.

He said: "I would have gone for it just as soon as it was clear that the disease was not under control.

Temperature sensitive

"A decision has been based on the trading stance that vaccinated animals are not acceptable. It is about economics; it isn't about disease control."


Vaccination does work - just look at the record when they vaccinated in Europe. The number of outbreaks has dropped dramatically

Professor Fred Brown
At Friday's foot-and-mouth session Professor Brown said the virus would become more virulent as temperatures drop.

Scientists believe that in the hot summer, the virus that spreads the disease dries up within a few days. But in colder weather, it can stay infectious for weeks or even months.

Professor Brown said there were tests to distinguish animals with the disease from those that had been vaccinated.

Trade concerns

But Professor Woolhouse said that vaccination should be used in the current outbreak only "as a last resort".

He said it was uncertain how long the latest outbreak would last but projections indicated weeks or even months.

The argument over vaccination has rumbled on in the UK almost since the first confirmed case of the disease in February.

Supporters say it could be used as a replacement or additional weapon to the culling policy. But farmers say vaccinated animals can still carry the virus and pass it on, without showing any symptoms - so jabs could worsen the outbreak in the long run.

Farmers are also concerned about damage to the export trade as many countries, such as the US, will not allow imports of vaccinated meat and livestock.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The government doesn't seem inclined to pursue vaccination"
Prof Fred Brown
"Vaccination does work"
Tim Yeo, Shadow agriculture minister
"There's still some confusion in people's minds"


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