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Foot & Mouth Experience

Foot and Mouth Disease was well established by the end of February, but by the time I decided to volunteer my services as a Temporary Veterinary Inspector (TVI) I was snowed in at Low Common with little prospect of escape until a thaw set in. However a plea for help to Lilburn Estates resulted in a J.C.B. clearing the road and the following day, March 7th, I reported to Carlisle for duty. I was given a round of jobs to do in Cleveland before reporting back to Newcastle.

As I had sheep at home and would be quarantined for 72 hours after contacting disease I was put up in a hotel and so began a five month stint living away from home.

It wasn’t long before I encountered disease in sheep although Page St. in London would not accept it on clinical signs alone and waited two days for Laboratory confirmation before declaring it an Infected Premise (IP). I then spent most of the following week supervising valuation and slaughter and organising a massive pyre.

In the weeks that followed the same pattern repeated itself and the cycle of slaughter intensified as the army were brought in to organise the logistics. By this time the Newcastle Office at Kenton Bar had become a Disease Control Centre (DECC) in its own right. As the spring advanced the number of young lambs to be killed by injection multiplied and I finally became sickened by the endless slaughter. I volunteered for an inside job at the DECC and ended up working in the Tracings Department.

This involved following up all movements on and off a farm prior to it being declared an IP to try to determine how the disease had been introduced and where it might appear next. To do this we mainly had to rely on the reports of the Vets who had visited the premises and detected the disease. The first part of the job was often tracing this paperwork which seemed to have a habit of disappearing into the administrative system of the DECC and not reappearing for 48 hours or so.

By mid summer this work was starting to decline as the number of new cases dropped off and I Moved on to Protection zone clearance, identifying all stock within 3km of an IP and ensuring that it had been monitored and finally blood tested. This work progressed well and we moved on to 10km Surveillance work to finally lift all local restrictions in Northumberland. My own sheep were blood tested at Low Common as we were just on the edge of the 10km zone around Milfield. By this time I had moved back home and travelled daily to Newcastle as I was no longer in direct contact with disease This work was progressing well when the Allendale outbreak blew up at the end of August. I had been hoping to get outdoors again doing some mapping work but found myself back in Tracings.

One month on we seem to be getting on top of this new outbreak but it was a major setback and will certainly delay any return to normality. So seven months on I am still a ‘Temporary’ Veterinary Inspector with little hope of escape before Christmas.

J Ewing