EPIC - Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks

Published on 17 October 2013 in Sustainability and Communities , Food, health and wellbeing

The livestock disease risks that are faced in Scotland are constantly changing making it essential to provide timely and effective policy advice to the Scottish Government. EPIC – the Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks – was established to deliver this advice based on the latest research and best practice.

Cattle on a hillside

Key Challenges

  • The unpredictable nature of exotic animal disease incursion and the emergence and potential arrival in Scotland of new diseases require a responsive and robust control strategy to be developed.
  • More effective and timely data collection in relation to animal movement and likely disease risk allows a more informed response but this can only be achieved if the data are understood and available in a format that allows rapid utilization in a disease emergency situation.
  • In the event of a disease outbreak, there is a need for a coordinated response at short notice between all relevant stakeholders, with people in place as part of an existing and tested infrastructure.
  • Engaging with stakeholders and appreciating their strategic thinking as this relates to livestock disease risk is an important part of future disease control policy.

Key Benefits

  • We have established desks for EPIC scientists to work alongside Scottish Government scientists and policy advisors to develop a personal working rapport and familiarity with the working environment and practices. Working together in this way, we have provided a large number of Veterinary Risk Assessments (VRAs) to support policy decision making in the time of an outbreak.
  • We have conducted a number of workshops, both internally within EPIC and with external stakeholders, to share ideas and views and to plan for more cohesive and effective working going forward. A novel approach to internal EPIC communication through implementation of a social media tool for business communication was successfully implemented during participation in the Exercise Walnut disease incursion exercise.
  • EPIC has developed of state-of-the-art statistical inference packages for analysing disease spread patterns in small groups which will allow the rapid prediction of the consequences of disease control with relatively few cases to study. This approach has been tested with a spatially localised outbreak of bovine TB (bTB) in five herds and shown to be robust when compared to analysis of much larger datasets. A biobank and high throughput typing methodology has been established in support of the work on Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus transmission and control.
  • State-of-the-art analysis of the impact of delays in reaching a decision on vaccination in the face of a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak has been conducted. As expected, this is a difficult decision that depends in part on where and when FMD cases are first reported.
  • We have completed work on disease prioritisation, reviewing the likelihood of an incursion and the likely impact on the livestock industry for the Scottish Government's priority diseases and some other pathogens, for example, Schmallenberg virus.
  • Scenario Planning workshops have been held with multiple stakeholders, EPIC staff and Scottish Government policy staff.

Foot being washed by brush

Comments or Questions

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Our Partners

  • SRUC (Scotland's Rural College)
  • Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh
  • Biomathematics and Statistics, Scotland
  • The James Hutton Institute
  • The Roslin Institute
  • College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow
  • Moredun Research Institute

Find Out More



Dr Pete Goddard pete.goddard@hutton.ac.uk

Andrew Grant andrew.grant@sruc.ac.uk

Ian Hutchinson ian.hutchinson@sruc.ac.uk


Sustainability and Communities , Food, health and wellbeing