Kansas State researchers model U.S. outbreak of foot-and-mouth

Veterinary researchers at Kansas State University have put together what they call the largest model of its kind that evaluates the effect and control of a potential outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock located in the central U.S.

The study, conducted by Mike Sanderson, a professor of epidemiology at the university, and Sara McReynolds, was recently published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Their work was funded by the Department of Homeland Security, K-State, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In it, the researchers developed simulations based on the North American Animal Disease Spread Model to assess the impact of an outbreak of the disease in the central U.S. The spread of the virus was simulated to compare different vaccination strategies to a depopulation-only scenario, they said in a press release.

Using USDA data, a simulated population of 151,620 livestock operations characterized by latitude and longitude, production type and herd size was generated. Additional data was developed by surveying livestock producers in Kansas and Colorado in order to determine the rate of contact between herd populations.

"The results of this study will provide information about the impacts of disease-control protocols, which may be useful in choosing the optimal control methods to be used by the livestock industry and animal health professionals to meet the goal of rapid effective control and eradication," Sanderson said in a statement. "The challenge behind this project is that you don't want to destroy the livestock industry in the process of trying to destroy the virus. You have to control the virus in a way that allows the industry to survive as effectively as possible."

The modeling study will support a subsequent project, Sanderson added, that is called  the Secure Beef Supply Plan. That project is being done in collaboration with Iowa State University. K-State will also use the study for an economic model developed by Ted Schroeder, a professor of livestock marketing in the agricultural economics department.

Kansas State is located in Manhattan, KS, which is where a new $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is under construction. The lab, which will study swine flu, foot-and-mouth disease and other livestock ailments, is being moved from Plum Island off of Long Island, NY, and is expected to be completed by 2018.

- see the announcement
- check out the abstract