Foot and mouth 20 years on: what an animal virus epidemic taught UK science


Britain’s top vet was newly qualified when the outbreak hit. Here, she talks about the devastating slaughter and tracking virus variants

Christine Middlemiss was a young vet working in Scotland in February 2001 when foot and mouth disease struck Britain. Having grown up on a farm, and having later worked in veterinary care in Cumbria, she volunteered to help battle an affliction that would eventually take a terrible toll on UK livestock.

“I volunteered as a temporary veterinary inspector at 4pm and was told to report to a farm in Cumbria by 8am the next day,” Middlemiss told the Observer last week. “I got there and was given an A5 piece of paper with instructions about what I had to do. That was all the recorded advice that was available at the time.”

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