Epidemiology and Infection

Methods and modelling

A novel field-based approach to validate the use of network models for disease spread between dairy herds

L. GARCÍA ÁLVAREZa1 c1, C. R. WEBBa1 and M. A. HOLMESa1

a1 Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

SUMMARY

The introduction of a centralized system for recording cattle movements in the UK has provided a framework for network-based models for disease spread. However, there are many types of non-reportable contacts between farms which may play a role in disease spread. The lack of real pathogen data with which to test network models makes it difficult to assess whether reported data adequately captures the risk-potential network between farms and improves the accuracy of disease forecasts. A novel multi-disciplinary approach is described whereby network-based models, built upon reported cattle movements and non-reportable local contacts between study farms, are parameterized using field data on bovine Staphylococcus aureus strains. Reported cattle movements were found to play a role in strain spread between farms, but other contacts via farm visitors were also correlated with strain distribution, suggesting that parameterizing contact networks using cattle-tracing data alone may not adequately capture the disease dynamics.

(Accepted January 10 2011)

(Online publication February 15 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: Dr L. García Álvarez, The National Centre for Infection Prevention and Management, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, Charing Cross Campus, 3rd Floor, Reynolds Building, St Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP, UK. (Email: l.garcia-alvarez@imperial.ac.uk)

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