Impacts on animal disease

A changing climate could affect the spread of animal diseases

What is the risk?

Many viruses affecting animals, such as bluetongue, are spread by vectors — insects whose movements are affected by wind, temperature and precipitation. Other diseases are airborne, such as foot-and-mouth, meaning their spread is also affected by weather conditions. A changing climate will affect when and where such viruses and diseases spread, potentially exposing the UK to new or increased risks of infection.

What have we done?

We have created sophisticated dispersion models which aim to forecast the potential spread of diseases or viruses based on weather. The models are being continually refined to improve their accuracy.

What's the conclusion?

Our forecasts have already been used by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during foot-and-mouth and bluetongue outbreaks. Selective vaccination of livestock in areas pinpointed by Met Office forecasts is estimated to have saved nearly £500 million, together with 10,000 jobs.

We are also advising on how climate change will impact the frequency of such outbreaks in the future, helping people to start adapting to potential issues now.

Last updated: 7 April 2011