To evaluate the best tactics for fighting the current foot and mouth crisis in the UK, a team from Imperial College School of Medicine, London applied a mathematical model and calculated the potential for disease transmission, given different scenarios. In their report in 13 April Science online they show that rapid, pre-emptive ring culling of livestock surrounding the sites with infected animals is the best way to slow the epidemic.

Ferguson et al fed the current epidemiological data into a mathematical equation of disease transmission that captures the differing spatial contact patterns between farms before and after the imposition of movement restrictions. Calculated predictions suggest that slaughtering sick animals within 24 hours, followed by ring culling over a 1.5-kilometer area within 48 hours offer the maximum potential for slowing the epidemic.

If such drastic measures were implemented consistently, the disease would affect only 16% of British farms (or 53%...

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