Accuracy of models for the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic

Michael J. Tildesley, Rob Deardon, Nicholas J. Savill, Paul R. Bessell, Stephen P. Brooks, Mark E.J. Woolhouse, Bryan T. Grenfell, Matt J. Keeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Since 2001 models of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, supported by the data from the UK epidemic, have been expounded as some of the best examples of problem-driven epidemic models. These claims are generally based on a comparison between model results and epidemic data at fairly coarse spatio-temporal resolution. Here, we focus on a comparison between model and data at the individual farm level, assessing the potential of the model to predict the infectious status of farms in both the short and long terms. Although the accuracy with which the model predicts farms reporting infection is between 5 and 15%, these low levels are attributable to the expected level of variation between epidemics, and are comparable to the agreement between two independent model simulations. By contrast, while the accuracy of predicting culls is higher (20-30%), this is lower than expected from the comparison between model epidemics. These results generally support the contention that the type of the model used in 2001 was a reliable representation of the epidemic process, but highlight the difficulties of predicting the complex human response, in terms of control strategies to the perceived epidemic risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1468
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1641
StatePublished - Jun 22 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Foot and mouth
  • Model-data comparison
  • Spatial
  • Stochastic


Dive into the research topics of 'Accuracy of models for the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this