Modelling farm-to-farm disease transmission through personnel movements: From visits to contacts, and back

Gianluigi Rossi*, Rebecca L. Smith, Stefano Pongolini, Luca Bolzoni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Infectious diseases in livestock can be transmitted through fomites: objects able to convey infectious agents. Between-farm spread of infections through fomites is mostly due to indirect contacts generated by on-farm visits of personnel that can carry pathogens on their clothes, equipment, or vehicles. However, data on farm visitors are often difficult to obtain because of the heterogeneity of their nature and privacy issues. Thus, models simulating disease spread between farms usually rely on strong assumptions about the contribution of indirect contacts on infection spread. By using data on veterinarian on-farm visits in a dairy farm system, we built a simple simulation model to assess the role of indirect contacts on epidemic dynamics compared to cattle movements (i.e. direct contacts). We showed that including in the simulation model only specific subsets of the information available on indirect contacts could lead to outputs widely different from those obtained with the full-information model. Then, we provided a simple preferential attachment algorithm based on the probability to observe consecutive on-farm visits from the same operator that allows overcoming the information gaps. Our results suggest the importance of detailed data and a deeper understanding of visit dynamics for the prevention and control of livestock diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2375
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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