DEFRA HAS announced details of a live exercise on June 29/30 to test its contingency plan for foot-and-mouth disease.
The staged event, called Exercise Hornbeam, will simulate days 7 and 8 of an outbreak and will focus on the role vaccination would play in controlling the spread of disease.
“It is essential that the department‘s ability to fight any new outbreak is tested thoroughly and that plans are realistic and achievable,” said Ben Bradshaw, junior DEFRA minister.
“The role that vaccination could play in a future outbreak is a crucial area to be tested.
“Vaccination can be an important part of the armoury and a great deal of work has been done by the department in turning it into a practical possibility.”
DEFRA has made it clear that should the decision to vaccinate be taken the policy is to vaccinate-to-live rather than vaccinate-to-kill later.
The decision to employ vaccination will be dependent on the weather, topography of the land around the outbreak and the livestock population within a 3km radius.
It will also depend on the species of animal found to be carrying the disease.
Pigs are likely to be vaccinated as infected pigs excrete more virus than other species and so pose a great threat to cattle and sheep.
It is unlikely that sheep would be vaccinated as there is considerable doubt as to whether it would be economically viable.
This is because after vaccination meat has to be heat-treated or deboned and matured until after the country‘s F&M-free status is established.
The government has also abandoned the policy of burning animals in funeral pyres.
In future outbreaks animals would be disposed of through rendering, incineration and burial.