Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Where is the certainty in animal disease?

Three Relu researchers presented results at last night's Animal and Plant Disease Forum, which brings practitioners and members of the policy community together with academics. If there is consensus on animal disease, it seems to be that information will always be incomplete. In situations of exotic disease outbreaks, it is difficult if not impossible to predict the course of events, and yet action of some sort must be taken. And of course, detailed plans are in place for emergencies such as another outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, or Avian flu. They map out a response, specific down to timings of media releases. But the uncertainty of animal disease means that the response is unlikely to follow such a prescribed plan. So is there any point in having a plan at all? Is it really there to give those who have to cope some sense of being in control as all around them descends into chaos? Does it give them some firm ground from which to step out into the unknown? If so, the plan has a very useful function. And if action achieves the required outcome, knowledge will follow.

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