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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022066. Epub 2011 Jul 27.

A review of exotic animal disease in Great Britain and in Scotland specifically between 1938 and 2007.

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  • 1Epidemiology Group, School of Biological Sciences, Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.



Incursions of contagious diseases of livestock into disease-free zones are inevitable as long as the diseases persist elsewhere in the world. Knowledge of where, when and how incursions have occurred helps assess the risks, and regionalize preventative and reactive measures.


Based on reports of British governmental veterinary services, we review occurrence of the former OIE List A diseases, and of Aujeszky's disease, anthrax and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in farm-animals in Great Britain (GB) between 1938 and 2007. We estimate incidence of each disease on GB agricultural holdings and fraction of susceptible farm-animals culled to control the disease each year. We then consider the frequency and incidence of the diseases in Scotland alone. The limitations of available data on historical disease occurrence and denominator populations are detailed in Text S2.


The numbers of livestock and poultry farmed in GB grew over the years 1938-2007; the number of agricultural holdings decreased. An amalgamation of production on larger holdings took place from the 1940s to the 1980s. The maximum annual incidence of a reviewed disease in GB 1938-2007 was reported for bTB, 1.69% of holdings in 1961. This was followed by Newcastle disease, 1.50% of holdings in 1971, and classical swine fever, 1.09% of holdings in 1940. The largest fractional cull of susceptible livestock in a single year in each of the four decades 1950s-1980s was due to a viral disease primarily affecting swine. During the periods 1938-1949 and 2000-2007 this was due to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. In the absence of incursions of the former OIE List A diseases in the 1990s, this was due to bTB. Over the 70 years, the diseases were reported with lower frequency and lower annual incidence in Scotland, as compared to when these statistics are considered for GB as a whole.

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