Foot-and-mouth disease is a severe, highly contagious viral disease that can cause illness in animals with divided hooves, such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats and deer – and Kansas State researchers are trying to find out just how an outbreak of it in the U.S. could affect the economy.
Dustin Pendell, a K-State agricultural economist who specializes in animal health economics, modeled the economic impact of an FMD outbreak under 15 different emergency vaccination strategies in the U.S. Midwest.
The models included economic linkages from different species of livestock and crop production all the way to the final consumer, including international trade partners.
If a FMD outbreak were to occur in this region and no emergency vaccination program was implemented, the research found estimated losses to producers and consumers at approximately $188 billion and additional government losses at $11 billion due to controlling livestock movement and depopulating infected livestock.
However, if an aggressive emergency vaccination program was implemented, such as a 50-kilometer (31-mile) vaccination zone where livestock were vaccinated at a rate of 50 herds per day at day 22 and 80 herds per day at day 40 from the onset of an outbreak, the economic losses would be reduced significantly to $56 billion for producers and consumers and $1.1 billion in governmental costs.
Results of the research are included in a report available online titled, "Economic Impact of Alternative FMD Emergency Vaccination Strategies in the Midwestern United States."
The research was part of a larger project that examined the continuity of feedlots in the Midwest if there was an outbreak of FMD and also involved K-State agricultural economist Ted Schroeder, veterinarian and epidemiologist in the K-State Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology Mike Sanderson and a former graduate student.
How the study worked >>
How the models worked
Pendell said that while previous research has been done on the topic of FMD emergency vaccinations, these studies examined a smaller region, such as three, eight, or at the most, 15 counties. Their study included a wider breadth of geographic location by including eight states across the Midwest.
The epidemiological models the researchers used are designed to simulate and forecast a disease spread, Pendell said.
"We take that information, such as how many animals are depopulated, how many animals are vaccinated, and then Dr. Schroeder and I incorporate that into economic modeling framework to find various economic losses," he said.
FMD vaccines are controversial for many reasons, the research report said, which highlighted another need for the study.
The controversies include, but are not limited to, the ability to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals, delays in regaining lost export markets, costs of the vaccinations, uncertainty in the value of an emergency vaccination program and availability of a vaccine for a certain strain of FMD.
Many economic questions also surround how to determine the best emergency vaccination protocol for FMD, the report added.
These questions include whether or not to allow vaccinated animals to live versus depopulating all susceptible animals within a certain radius regardless if they received a vaccine, how to find available personnel to administer emergency vaccines within a specified radius, how to identify infected herds prior to vaccine administration and what vaccination zone is ideal to control FMD.
"We hope this information and any other research that we do in the animal health arena is going to help in case something happens in the future," Pendell said. "This is intended for policy makers, animal health officials and producers to use in making better policy decisions on vaccinating, and in this particular case, emergency vaccination for foot-and-mouth disease."