An epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) can have devastating effects on animal welfare, economic revenues, the export position and society as a whole, as occurred during the 2001 FMD epidemic in the Netherlands. Following the preemptive culling of 260,000 animals during this outbreak, the Dutch government adopted emergency vaccination as preferred control policy. However, a vaccination-to-live strategy has not been applied before, posing unprecedented challenges for effectively controlling the epidemic, regaining FMD-free status and minimizing economic losses. These three topics are covered in an interdisciplinary model analysis. In this first part we evaluate whether and how emergency vaccination can be effectively applied to control FMD epidemics in the Netherlands. For this purpose we develop a stochastic individual-based model that describes FMD virus transmission between animals and between herds, taking heterogeneity between host species (cattle, sheep and pigs) into account. Our results in a densely populated livestock area with >4 farms/km(2) show that emergency ring vaccination can halt the epidemic as rapidly as preemptive ring culling, while the total number of farms to be culled is reduced by a factor of four. To achieve this reduction a larger control radius around detected farms and a corresponding adequate vaccination capacity is needed. Although sufficient for the majority of simulated epidemics with a 2 km vaccination zone, the vaccination capacity available in the Netherlands can be exhausted by pig farms that are on average ten times larger than cattle herds. Excluding pig farms from vaccination slightly increases the epidemic, but more than halves the number of animals to be vaccinated. Hobby flocks - modelled as small-sized sheep flocks - do not play a significant role in propagating the epidemic, and need not be targeted during the control phase. In a more sparsely populated livestock area in the Netherlands with about 2 farms/km(2) the minimal control strategy of culling only detected farms seems sufficient to control an epidemic.
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