Within EPIC, the focus of my research is on horizon scanning for disease threats to Scottish livestock. I analyse diseases that could cause outbreaks in Scottish livestock, but are not currently in Scotland. These might be diseases that we have experience of in Scotland such as foot and mouth disease, but I also monitor diseases that we may have never seen in Scotland, or indeed Europe. One contemporary example is lumpy skin disease, a disease of cattle which was believed to be limited to Africa, but during 2015 and 2016 there have been increasing numbers of outbreaks in the Balkans and Greece.
Where less is known about the disease or threat, I conduct assessment of the threat and potential for spread in Scotland. Where we have more knowledge I attempt to quantify the risks of a particular pathway for introduction. One example from 2014 was research into West Nile virus that estimated the likelihood of the virus being carried to the UK by migrating passerine birds. In EPIC 2, I supported this research with mathematical models to estimate the likely impacts of diseases once they are introduced and the potential for controlling these diseases using vaccination. Examples of such diseases are Schmallenberg virus and Bluetongue virus, both of which are spread by midge vectors.
In addition to considering disease threats, I am also considering threats to Scotland from insect vectors. One such vector is the Aedes mosquito which transmits many diseases including Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya virus. At present the climate of the UK is not warm enough for Aedes mosquitos, however, the same is not the case for Culex modestus, a mosquito that was recently found in England and is important in the spread of West Nile virus. I continue to monitor and assess the risks from this and other disease vectors.
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