17 May 2002

Human cost great

PEOPLE are still suffering flashbacks from last years foot-and-mouth outbreak, the inquiry heard. The disease caused stress, unemployment and isolation – all of which had a direct or indirect impact on the human health sector in the region.

Peter Tiplady, director of public health for north Cumbria during the outbreak, gave evidence to the public inquiry on Friday (May 10). It must be recognised that outbreaks of such diseases among animals directly affected human as well as animal health, he said.

Local health services were put under a big strain by the epidemic and people continue to suffer flashbacks and tears, including soldiers who fought the disease. Some helplines were doing little more than redirecting people to other helplines and increasing the frustration of staff and callers, Dr Tiplady said.

Even the Cumbria Stress Information Network, which ran a successful helpline staffed by volunteers, was swamped by callers. One call with distressed farmer lasted more than three hours. Right through this time it seemed that only lip service was paid to the effect that foot-and-mouth was having on human beings, said Dr Tiplady.

In the future, public health and other authorities must be involved from the start in providing support for people affected by the knock-on effects of the disease.