Veterinary Public Health Institute

Completed Projects

Foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Switzerland 1965/66

Retrospective evaluation of emergency vaccination for the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 1965/66 in Switzerland

Contact Person: Salome Dürr

Persons involved: Dana Zingg, Gertraud Schüpbach, Stephan Häsler (Swiss Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine), Heinzpeter Schwermer (Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office)

Duration: 2014-2015

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious disease which caused several large outbreaks in Europe in the last century. The last important outbreak in Switzerland took place in 1965/66 and affected more than 900 premises and more than 50,000 animals were slaughtered. Large scale emergency vaccination of the cattle and pig population has been applied to control the epidemic. In recent years, many studies have used infectious disease models to assess the impact of different disease control measures, including models developed for diseases exotic for the specific region of interest. Often, the absence of real outbreak data makes a validation of such models impossible. This study aimed to evaluate whether a spatial, stochastic simulation model (the Davis Animal Disease Simulation model) can predict the course of a Swiss FMD epidemic based on the available historic input data on population structure, contact rates, epidemiology of the virus and quality of the vaccine. In addition, the potential outcome of the 1965/66 FMD epidemic without application of vaccination was investigated. Comparing the model outcomes to reality, only the largest 10% of the simulated outbreaks approximated the number of animals being culled. However, the simulation model highly overestimated the number of culled premises. While the outbreak duration could not be well reproduced by the model compared to the 1965/66 epidemic, it was able to accurately estimate the size of the area infected. Without application of vaccination the model predicted a much higher mean number of culled animals than with vaccination, demonstrating that vaccination was likely crucial in disease control for the Swiss FMD outbreak in 1965/66. The study demonstrated the feasibility to analyze historical outbreak data with modern analytical tools. However, it also confirmed that predicted epidemics from a most carefully parametrized model cannot integrate all eventualities of a real epidemic. Therefore, decision makers need to be aware that infectious disease models are useful tools to support the decision making process but their results are not equal valuable as real observations and should always be interpreted with caution.

Control of foot-and-mouth disease in Switzerland in 1965/66. Foto: Archiv SVGVM (Schweizerische Vereinigung für Geschichte der Veterinärmedizin)